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Vermont event hosts seek clarity on cannabis policy

(WCAX)
Published: Jan. 31, 2020 at 2:17 PM EST
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Vermont is inching closer to a taxed and regulated market for marijuana, but many questions remain about where people will be allowed to consume cannabis. Now, advocates are working on a new proposal to clarify consumption laws and put marijuana on the same page as alcohol.

Lang Farm in Essex during the winter is a quiet store that sells local products. But the rest of the year, the farm with its restored barns from the 1870s, becomes a destination for weddings and other events, and many of those visitors celebrate with cannabis.

"It's not uncommon to see a group of guys -- and even the ladies with them -- to take a little walk, if you know what I mean. So, what they do is not my concern. I don't see them as being unsafe, I see someone who's consumed to much alcohol as being unsafe," said Jon Lang, the farm's owner.

Lang doesn't condone or sell cannabis to his guests, though he does acknowledge its use. But since he operates a business on his property, his guests are in a consumption gray area.

"Does that mean if I smoke a joint at a wedding, does that mean I'm smoking in public? That's where we've learned that in planning cannabis events, there is a little uncertainty," said Eli Harrington, the founder of pot the advocacy organization Vermontijuana.

Harrington and other advocates are trying to create a process for cannabis event permits. The proposal would regulate its consumption and permitting similarly to alcohol. During golf tournaments, concerts, or weddings at the Lang's farm, people would be able to bring and consume their own cannabis.

Advocates say it would be a boon to the tourism industry and could give people more choices then cannabis lounges. "The state knows who can check IDs to know that you're 21 and the state knows how to make sure that you have an event where everyone is 21 because they're consuming alcohol. Same premise -- let's create a space where we know it's a safe space for you to consume cannabis," Harrington said.

Some in the law enforcement community are concerned about how best to enforce the idea and hold people accountable. Police are still determining the threshold for a cannabis DUI.

"With people growing their own and coming from other locations, you never know what you've got or what's in it. You could have a real mild dose or a more serious dose laced with something you're not sure of," said Washington County Sheriff Samuel Hill.

He also says whoever issues the event permits would also have to enforce to make sure everyone is of age and is being safe.

But until the law is clarified, Lang say event hosts remain liable for something they can't control. "What people do on their own time in their own self walking around a property like ours is basically their own business. How they get home safely is their own business as well," Lang said.

The cannabis event permit idea has not been introduced as a bill yet. Activists hope to attach the idea to a bill in the legislature dealing with vendors and alcohol in the coming weeks.