At least 34 cannabis plants were removed from a flower bed at the Vermont State House last week after a visitor to the state capitol in Montpelier reported their presence to law enforcement. Capitol Police Chief Matt Romei said, after the plants were discovered, that he was unsure if the young plants were hemp or marijuana and that groundskeepers on the property may have found more plants after the initial discovery.

The chief added that he was not surprised that the cannabis plants found a suitable home in the well-tended garden that lines a walkway in front of the statehouse.

“You could plant a 2-by-4 piece of lumber in there, and it would grow into a palm tree,” Romei said. “So it is totally not surprising that if somebody would put some marijuana seeds in there, they would grow like weeds.”

Growing at Home OK. The State House, Not So Much

The Vermont legislature legalized the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by adults last year, with provisions of the legalization bill also allowing for the home cultivation of cannabis. Adults in the state are permitted to grow up two mature and four immature cannabis per residence.

Vermont has also legalized hemp agriculture and the chief said that he was unsure if the plants discovered in the capitol flower bed were marijuana or hemp. Either way, they weren’t being grown in accordance with state regulations.

“The State House Lawn certainly does not meet those standards,” Romei said.

Determining if the plants found were marijuana or hemp would require lab testing to analyze the amount of THC in them, a step Romei said would not be taken since prosecuting the case is unlikely. Plants must have less than 0.3 percent THC by weight to be considered hemp.

Romei said he didn’t know why someone chose the flower bed as a cannabis cultivation site.

“We also have no thoughts on why someone would plant it,” the chief added. “But if anyone wants to claim it and let us know why they planted it, we are happy to listen.”

However, Romei noted that if anyone did take responsibility for cultivating the plants, they would be subject to prosecution.

“The only way we can make a criminal case is if someone comes down and claims it,” Romei said.

Romei said that Capitol Police have discovered cannabis plants growing on the State House grounds on previous occasions as well, although this was the first time it has happened since he has been chief.

“This was a humorous thing to come back to off from vacation,” Romei said

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