April McCullum, Burlington Free Press Published 9:19 a.m. ET Aug. 23, 2019 | Updated 11:34 a.m. ET Aug. 23, 2019
The Ridin’ High skateboard shop at the corner of Battery and Pearl streets in Burlington seen on Friday, Aug. 23, 2019. (Photo: JOEL BAIRD/FREE PRESS)
Vermont legalized marijuana on July 1, 2018, but the plant continues to cause legal problems for some businesses who test the limits of the law.
There’s no legal market for marijuana, meaning that consumers must grow their own plants or find someone to share a small amount as a gift. Outside of the tightly-regulated medical marijuana system in Vermont, there’s no legal way to buy or sell the drug.
Recent court cases have underlined another reality: Marijuana remains illegal under federal law.
Here are five incidents of marijuana troubles since legalization.
Ridin’ High Skate Shop
The owners of Ridin’ High Skate shop, the colorful building on the corner of Pearl Street and Battery Street in Burlington, were arrested this week on charges that they grew marijuana at their home in Underhill and sold it at the shop.
John Van Hazinga and Samantha Steady are facing charges of conspiracy to distribute marijuana and edible products infused with delta-9 THC, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release. Van Hazinga and Steady pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Marijuana remains illegal on the federal level, though in Vermont, U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan has focused her office’s resources on heroin and drug trafficking rather than prosecuting marijuana possession.
U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan at her office on Feb. 4, 2019 (Photo: JESS ALOE/FREE PRESS)
Nolan said in a statement about the Ridin’ High case that “open and notorious trafficking of marijuana will not be tolerated.”
“Those who deal this drug and have prior criminal records, those who deal it to children or in their presence, those who engage in violence while dealing it, those who deal it for high profit, and those who deal it in areas of high commercial foot-traffic should expect to receive heightened attention from the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” Nolan said.
Good Times Gallery
Nolan’s office brought marijuana charges against the owner of a store on Burlington’s busiest shopping street in January 2019.
The federal case alleged that Derek Spilman sold marijuana and edibles out of his store, Good Times Gallery, on Church Street across from City Hall. Spilman pleaded not guilty to the marijuana charges and related firearms charges, and the case is ongoing.
A screen shot of court papers filed with U.S. District Court shows a photo included as an exhibit by the U.S. Attorney’s Office that depicts the distance between Good Times Gallery and Full Tank on Church Street. (Photo: Free Press)
Several businesses that offered to deliver marijuana to customers, for a fee, started advertising their services shortly after legalization.
Online advertisements quieted down after Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan announced the businesses were breaking state law.
An organic vegetable farm in Craftsbury discovered earlier this year that at least one of their hundreds of “hemp” plants was actually marijuana, with a high level of THC.
Pete’s Greens received the seedlings from Champlain Valley Dispensary, the state’s largest medical marijuana business. Farmers are allowed to grow hemp after registering with state regulators.
The Vermont Agency of Agriculture tested two samples from the farm, including one that tested for high levels of THC. The story was first uncovered by the cannabis advocacy website Heady Vermont.
The Vermont Statehouse
Vermont’s most stately building briefly became the site of a cannabis grow this year.
Capitol police discovered 34 cannabis plants among the flower beds in front of the Statehouse in June. Capitol Police Chief Matthew Romei told the Associated Press that the plants had not been tested for THC content to determine whether they were marijuana or hemp.
Police uprooted the plants.