Man Assumed He Could Grow Marijuana Because He “Thought It Would Be Legal Soon”

Sure, some bartenders might serve you a beer a few hours before your official 21st birthday, but that’s a far cry from growing 40 marijuana plants under the assumption that your state is going to legalize pot at some point in the near future.

According to police in St. Albans, VT, an investigation into a possible hunting violation resulted in officers ultimately turning up a dozens of marijuana plants in the home of a local resident (who fled, unsuccessfully, to a neighbor’s house).

NBC-5 reports (warning: link contains autoplay video) that police found 13 mature marijuana plants, 27 smaller plants, and marijuana seeds.

According to NORML, that volume of plants would be a felony in Vermont, punishable by up to 15 years in prison and $500,000 in fines.

Police said the man admitted to the grow operation and said he’d been cultivating pot plants “because he thought it was going to be legalized and he wanted to get a jump on growing it.”

Unfortunately for him, “almost” legal is not the same as “actually legal.”

“I’ve heard through my 33 years of practicing law pretty much every comical response somebody would come up with to a police officer who’s about to bust them for something,” State Sen. Joe Benning told the news site. “I got a kick out of that, but the nutshell of it is this person knows full well we have no system in place.”

Not yet, at least: Although the Vermont Senate passed a marijuana legalization and regulation bill last year, it failed to pass the House, the Marijuana Policy Project noted this week.

This year, lawmakers in the House are sponsoring another bill, H. 170 [PDF], which would eliminate penalties for adults’ possession and cultivation of a limited amount of cannabis. That bill passed the House Judiciary Committee in late March and was referred to the Human Services Committee.

In an effort to move things along, the Senate voted last week to amend another House-passed bill, H. 167 [PDF] to include language regarding the regulation of legalized marijuana production and sales in the state. You can read a summary of that amendment here [PDF].