Lawyer: Town cannot outlaw head shops

Vermont’s legalization of recreational marijuana for personal use has raised many questions for municipalities and local law enforcement, and Shelburne is no exception.

Tuesday evening’s Selectboard meeting included a discussion of some of the questions local officials are facing regarding how to remain vigilant when it comes to substance abuse.

Last month the Selectboard asked Interim Town Manager Lee Krohn to look into an ordinance outlawing head shops – retail stores that sell paraphernalia that could be used for marijuana or tobacco.

Krohn asked the Vermont League of Cities and Towns for a legal opinion on whether or not this was allowed. The  lawyer’s answer was essentially “no.”

“There is no statute that authorizes towns to ban recreational smoking generally in a town and no authority to ban ‘head shops,’” wrote Carl Andeer, attorney for Vermont League of Cities and Towns.

However, he stated there were options for adopting ordinances that ban recreational marijuana use in public places and on town property. The town could also potentially adopt an ordinance banning marijuana dispensaries, should selling marijuana become legal.

Under the new state law that went into effect this month, it is legal in Vermont to possess up to one ounce of marijuana for personal use but it remains illegal to sell pot for recreational use. Medical marijuana is sold through state-regulated dispensaries.

State Rep. Jessica Brumsted, D-Shelburne, attended Tuesday’s Selectboard meeting. She invited  Selectboard members to talk with her and Shelburne’s other state representative, Democrat Kate Webb, about the matter before the next legislative session begins in January.

Selectboard members voted unanimously to hold off on trying to create any ordinance banning head shops in Shelburne. They agreed that the town should not be put in the position of having to potentially fight a legal battle over an ordinance. They also said that town officials should watch whether other municipalities take steps to crack down on the sale of marijuana and related paraphernalia.

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