Cannabis, also known as marijuana, use among Vermonters is consistently among the highest in the country and is the highest for 12-17 and 18–25 year-olds. Legal status of cannabis in Vermont has changed significantly over the past two decades. In 2004, the Vermont legislature voted to legalize the use of cannabis for medical purposes and in 2013 penalties for possession of one ounce or less were reduced to a fine. In July 2018, legislation went into effect legalizing possession, private consumption, and limited cultivation among persons aged 21 years and older. Most recently, Vermont's regulated market opened in 2022 and people age 21 and over are now able to purchase cannabis products in Vermont. Cannabis remains illegal at the federal level.
In Vermont more adolescents are in treatment for cannabis disorders than any other substance, including alcohol. Reduced perception of risk among youth is likely influenced by many community-wide factors such as changes in cannabis policy and norms.
Research has shown that early (i.e. adolescent) and persistent use of cannabis can have several adverse effects on thinking, judgment, and physical and mental health. Early and persistent use of cannabis has been associated with chronic bronchitis, increased risks of several cancers, attention and memory impairment, and significant reduction in IQ, as well as increased risk of serious mental illness. There is an association between early cannabis use and subsequent abuse of other illegal drugs and excessive alcohol consumption. Other recent research has demonstrated that cannabis use in adolescence has a negative impact on college degree attainment, adult income, and measures at age 25 of relationship and life satisfaction.
Additional information is available in the Health Impact Assessment.
Key partners include:
Communications campaigns; screening for adolescent cannabis users identified by pediatricians or school authorities; parental monitoring of behavior and peer affiliations; school-based prevention curricula focused on cannabis; continued legal sanctions on possession and use of cannabis.
Reduction of 30-day cannabis use among youth and young adults is the goal for both our statewide Regional Prevention Partnerships (RPP) and School-based Substance Abuse Services (SBSAS) grants to supervisory unions across the state. Prevention strategies include education, local policy education and enhancements, assessment and planning, screening, family education, capacity building and youth and young adult focused activities. In addition to the evidence-based strategies being implemented by the grantees, the Department of Health maintains the Parent UP website featuring a section on cannabis education for parents.
The Division of Substance Use Programs (DSU) works with public and private colleges across the state to plan and host an annual College Symposium that for the last two years has been focused on cannabis use and its impact on health and academics.
Additionally, ongoing strategies include school-based prevention curricula, and educating pediatricians and parents about the dangers of early use of cannabis.
The Youth Risk Behavior Survey is administered every other year (odd years). Data is updated as it becomes available. For more information about this data source, see the YRBS page.
Note that prior to 2013, statewide estimates were generated by weighting responses from a representative sample of schools. In 2013, the methodology was changed and all student responses were used in creating statewide estimates, allowing for more accurate reporting. 2011 data were recalculated in the same way as 2013 data in order to improve comparisons. As a result, 2011 YRBS estimates that were published online after 02/04/2015 may be slightly different compared to those published previously.