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One Week After Legalization, Vermont Mayor Proposes Annual Fee and Licensing for Cannabis Home Grows

Governor Phil Scott signed a limited version of recreational cannabis legalization into law last week, and now the Mayor of Barre City, Vermont is looking to cash in on newly-authorized home grows.

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Vermont lawmakers and Republican Governor Phil Scott made history last week when they passed the country's first cannabis legalization law through a legislative vote. But while Green Mountain State residents will be able to possess an ounce of bud and grow up to two plants at home for personal use starting this summer, one Vermont Mayor is already trying to pile on extra legal weed regulations and extract cash from the city's 420-friendly residents.

According to the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus, Barre City Mayor Thomas Lauzon introduced a draft of a city ordinance proposal on Monday to create a local licensing structure for residents who want to take advantage of the state's new legalization program. If passed, Barre's personal-use cannabis growers would have to pay hundreds of dollars in initial and annual fees, open their homes to inspection by law enforcement officers, and submit their name and address to a public register.

As Mayor Lauzon's draft proposal currently stands, Barre residents would have to pay the city $250 before they even put seeds in the ground, and cough up another $100 for an annual renewal fee. Growers would also be required to get approval from an electrician before installing "grow lights," and give both city officials and local cops broad authority to perform "reasonable compliance inspections" at the homes of local licensees.

Because Vermont's legalization law bans retail cannabis sales, home grows will be the primary avenue for prospective recreational users to obtain the plant.

Mayor Lauzon has tried to justify his proposal as a public safety measure, claiming that the state's regulations about home grows are vague and could cause a huge surge in power usage and spark fires, especially considering Vermont's weather is significantly harsher than it is in Colorado or California, which will result in most cultivators growing indoors.

Even with those uncertainties on the near-horizon, Lauzon's proposal has already been questioned by members of Barre's City Council. Some see the suggested oversight as a breach of residents' privacy, in particular the proposal's home grow registry, which would allow the city to keep track of cultivation and potentially encourage citizens to take illegal risks in order to avoid law enforcement.

"I just can see it as a bad rabbit hole to go down," Barre City Councilmember John LePage told the Times Argus. "It's going to be a bad situation for anyone who thinks they're following the local law and, suddenly, their name ends up in the hands of a federal enforcement individual. That's a really genuine concern."

Those concerns were reiterated by Councilman Brandon Batham, who expressed reservations about exposing Barre residents to the whims of Jeff Sessions and the Department of Justice.

"I want to be very careful, knowing the national climate and the tone that has been set by the Trump administration on this issue," Batham said.

If the Mayor's ordinance is going to pass, it must first undergo two official readings and a public hearing. And while Lauzon introduced a draft of the proposal to the Barre City Council on Monday, that presentation did not count as an official reading. In other words, there is still a long way to go and plenty of time for rebuttal before the controversial regulations become local law.

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