5 ways Vermonters have gotten in trouble for marijuana since legalization

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.Buy Photo

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.

Why only subscribers?

Journalism at its core is made up of people who are passionate and dedicated to bringing you the news. No matter what. Our staff at the Burlington Free Press hopes to continue providing you with more stories like this. Sign up today to continue reading our in-depth coverage and get unlimited access to more subscriber-only content.

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

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.

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)

More: Vermont’s legal marijuana law: What you should know

‘Delivery’ businesses

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.

Pete’s Greens

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.

Read More

Police Profiling that comes close to heart

           In response to Williston Barracks / Negligent Operation 94/55 zone- I89 Safety Corridor by Vermont State Police press release issued by Corporal Andrew Leise. Your press release was rude and uncalled for the way you treated my brother when you stopped him was wrong. He’s never done anything wrong besides speed. He was late to his job from spending the night at a friends house. You profiling him and saying that you did him a favor by not writing him a ticket but instead issuing a press release to the news is unacceptable in my book. You could have very well made him lose his job. My Brother Kaleb is a good kid at heart just trying to make ends meet by working 3 job’s and living with family sleeping underneath his 14 year old sisters bed. Anyone that is friends or family of Kaleb is welcome to come to his court date for his support on Tuesday, August 27th, 2019  at 8:15 AM at the Edward J Costello Courthouse 32 Cherry St in Burlington, VT 05401

Much Love One Love,

Jakob Alexander McElwain


The Cannabis Catch-Up: Is Your CBD the Real Deal?


So many CBD choices... - LUKE EASTMAN

  • So many CBD choices…

Much has been written about cannabidiol. Is it a miracle cure for all ailments? Snake oil? Something in-between?
That’s all well and good. But there’s a more important question that should be asked first when evaluating a CBD product: Is there any CBD in it at all?
The folks over at NBC Boston decided to find out.
“We bought 10 products at random from stores around the Boston area, from oils and tinctures to CBD-infused lollipops and gummy bears,” reports Ally Donnelly. “We went to high-end boutiques and smoke shops; corner stores and gas stations.”
This isn’t your run-of-the-mill taste test. The station sent the stuff for testing at MCR Labs in Framingham, Mass., which returned some interesting results. Three products had the same amount of CBD as advertised, according to the lab. But one container of sour gummies, which claimed to contain 10 milligrams of CBD in each gummy, varied from 11 in one to 42 in another. That’s quite a range.
Here’s my personal favorite:

Gummy worms with the marking “Super Chill Products” cost us $10 a bag and advertised 100 milligrams in each worm, but the lab said they don’t have any CBD at all. We wanted a response from the company, but couldn’t find contact information on the package or online. The owner of the store where we bought them did not respond to multiple messages.

This isn’t an issue in Massachusetts alone. Seven Days reported in 2017 that Phytoscience Institute, a lab in Waterbury, did its own testing of CBD products from local and out-of-state companies. From that story:

Of the nine Vermont products tested, only one was accurately labeled. Five had less CBD than promised, and three offered no information at all. The results indicate that producers in Vermont’s relatively new CBD industry are still working out the kinks — and that testing is needed. 

Reminder, folks: Whether it’s a product with CBD in it, a protein shake or a newspaper, buy it from a source you trust!
Here are some other stories we followed this week:

May 18: There were more than double the number of vendors at this year’s Vermont Cannabis & Hemp convention compared to last year. And some of those attending weren’t thrilled by the state’s stalled bill to tax and regulate cannabis. [Emily Corwin, Vermont Public Radio]

May 20: New York City Councilor Jumaane Williams writes in an op-ed that he’s never smoked weed, despite spending much of his life “fitting the stereotype: a young black Caribbean man from Brooklyn with locs on his head and hip-hop in his ears.” Instead, he sold pot while in high school and now wants to decriminalize it, among other social justice measures surrounding cannabis. [Jumaane Williams, New York Daily News]

May 22: With weed legalization comes a “where-to-smoke?” dilemma for some. That includes hotel guests. Most states have banned smoking in public and even cannabis-smoking lounges. Is that beginning to change? [Bruce Kennedy, Leafly]

May 23: Maine has released its proposed recreational cannabis rules. About 100 people turned out to a Thursday meeting in Portland to weigh in on everything from prices to a proposal that a weed business applicant must have lived in Maine for at least four years. [Penelope Overton, Portland Press Herald]

May 23: Massachusetts regulators have OK’d the first sale of a cannabis company to another. The approval was delayed because of concerns that big weed companies are trying to find ownership loopholes to avoid state-imposed caps on certain licenses. [Shira Schoenberg, MassLive]

May 22: Check out some pics from last weekend’s Vermont Cannabis & Hemp Convention. [Heady Vermont]

May 23: A new study found that couples who use weed experience a spike in “intimacy events” during a two-hour window after consuming cannabis. And no, it’s not all sex. [Hannah Sparks, New York Post]

May 23: Retired NFL player Chris Long says he smoked his “fair share” of weed during his 11-year playing career, and he thinks the league’s testing policy is “arbitrary” and “kind of silly.” [Matt Bonesteel, the Washington Post]

A 69-Year-Old Great-Grandmother Was Arrested at Disney World for Carrying CBD Oil

he uses it for her arthritis.

BILLY BINION | 5.21.2019 12:21 PM



(Pressfoto | Dreamstime.com)

Disney World—where kiddie coasters, cartoon royalty, and overpriced food options abound—is colloquially known as “The Happiest Place on Earth.”

Hester Burkhalter would likely disagree. The 69-year-old great-grandmother was arrested outside of Magic Kingdom and spent 12 hours in jail last month after security officials found CBD—short for cannabidiol—oil in her purse. The compound is derived from cannabis but does not contain the psychoactive component, THC, found in marijuana.

In other words, it can’t get you high. But it supposedly can alleviate a plethora of medical conditions, including joint pain and anxiety.

“I have really bad arthritis in my legs, in my arms and in my shoulder,” Burkhalter tellsOrlando’s local Fox affiliate. “I use [CBD oil] for the pain because it helps.” She reportedly had a doctor’s note in her purse when security officials flagged her, but law enforcement detained her regardless.

While the charges have been dropped, Burkhalter’s attorney, Ben Crump, says he plans to sue Disney and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office on her behalf, alleging “illegal detention, false arrest and a violation of her civil rights,” WESH 2 reports.

Her misfortune sheds light on the murky legal territory surrounding CBD use, as regulations often conflict and as people increasingly flout local restrictions on the harmless substance. The Farm Bill—signed by President Trump in 2018—legalized hemp and CBD at the federal level. In Florida, it remains illegal without a prescription, although CBD-infused cocktails and shops selling the compound continue to pop up across the Sunshine State.

“Today in Orlando, we were able to go into the store and buy CBD,” said Crump—who also represented Trayvon Martin’s family—at a press conference last week. “It’s all over Orlando. It’s all over Florida.”

CBD use remains a point of contention even in places that have legalized marijuana. In California—where cannabis use is permitted both medically and recreationally—public health officials seized $140,000 worth of CBD-infused drinks from Vybes beverages.

That same cognitive dissonance is alive and well in Florida. “A little drop of oil, with the CBD, is a felony,” Jennifer Synnamon, a Florida attorney, told the local Fox affiliate. “Meanwhile, you can have up to 19.9 grams of leaf-marijuana, and it’s a first-degree misdemeanor.”

More here:

Read More

Kid Rock is getting his own giant middle finger sculpture from Vermont "It’s quite a thrill for me, honestly."

“It’s quite a thrill for me, honestly.”

Ted Pelkey’s middle finger sculpture being installed at his home in Westford, Vermont. –Courtesy of Ted Pelkey


Nik DeCosta-Klipa

1:36 PM

Ted Pelkey’s giant middle finger sculpture apparently has fans beyond Vermont’s Route 128.  And the Westford resident’s work of “art” will soon have a twin in Nashville.

Pelkey says he’s driving down to Tennessee with his wife later this month to hand-deliver a second version of his 700-pound wooden sculpture to singer Kid Rock. As WCAX first reported last week, the country music star called the 54-year-old Vermont native in December to express his admiration — and to ask if he could get his own middle finger sculpture.

“It’s quite a thrill for me, honestly,” Pelkey told Boston.com over the phone Wednesday. “He just really wants one.”

Rock, whose real name is Robert James Ritchie, has made the crude gesture something of his personal signature through his personal appearances, song lyrics, merchandise, and album art. Pelkey said he first got a voicemail from Rock around Christmas, in which the 48-year-old singer said he “liked my style.” Despite recent controversies, Pelkey noted that Rock came off as a real “down-to-earth guy” during their phone calls.

“I would do it for him if it wasn’t Kid Rock,” he added.

Pelkey had the original sculpture commissioned in November to protest Westford town officials, who he felt were treating him unfairly in a dispute over his efforts to build a garage on his property. He paid a local artist for the massive middle finger sculpture, which he mounted on a 16-foot platform in his yard and lit with floodlights. Considered a work of “public art” under Vermont law, the giant bird was allowed to stay up, catching the attention of both Route 128 drivers and nationalnews outlets.

“It was critical to me to make sure that my neighbors and the people who live in this town understood that I didn’t put that up there for them,” Pelkey told Boston.com at the time. “It is aimed directly at the people who sit in our town office.”

Rock is paying $4,000 — the same amount that Pelkey paid — for the second sculpture. Pelkey says he recently picked up Rock’s sculpture from the same artist who commissioned the original and is looking forward to hauling it down to the singer’s Nashville home. According to the Tennessean, Rock owns 170 acres of property in the city’s Whites Creek neighborhood.

The second sculpture won’t be the first crass display Rock has put up in Nashville, even if it will be somewhat hidden in the city’s outskirts. Earlier this year, Nashville’s Metro Council reluctantly approved a 20-foot sign outside the rock star’s new Broadway restaurant, Kid Rock’s Big Ass Honky Tonk Rock N’ Roll Steakhouse, that featured a giant guitar that was intentionally made to look like a woman’s butt.

Read More

Pro-Legalization Does Not Equate With Pro-Use


First, pro-legalization does not equate with pro-use.  It’s a matter of responsibility, personal freedom and no victims.

Right now the state of Vermont is in the middle of an experiment concerning mostly unregulated marijuana use and it doesn’t even know it.  It became legal July 1 to possess an ounce and grow some plants.  After listening to VPR about the upcoming legislative agenda concerning new marijuana laws, I was surprised that no caller or panelist mentioned this.  It is a foregone conclusion that the state will create a new bureaucracy to deal with the supposed increase in use and abuse.  So this begs the question “What has happened in the last six months concerning marijuana?”  It seems to me the answer is ……nothing.  There has been no evidence of an uptick in use, abuse or the other predictions of marijuana smoke pouring out of high school windows (the smoke pouring out is vapor) and cars flying off the roads and into other cars willy-nilly.

It is nearly impossible to get the facts.  The Office of National Drug Control Policy is statutorily mandated to oppose legalization by any means necessary.  Any report issued by the ONDCP will cherry pick or slant the facts to support its mandate.  The Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area has the same predisposition that legalization is a bad idea and has highlighted problems while suppressing any of the benefits of legalization.  The propaganda wars started when the police announced all drug seeking dogs would have to be euthanized because they couldn’t be untrained.

The hope is that the state will delay any action to create a new $20+million bureaucracy to regulate marijuana or set up a market place, whose expense can’t be covered by taxes.  Let the experiment continue for at least another year.  There is no need to find another solution in search of a problem at this time.


18 Year Old Vermont Girl Medically Kidnapped & Abused Now Fights Adult Protective Services to Remain Free

Elissa Maple is now 18. She was released from CPS by a Judge, but is now allegedly being pursued by Adult Protection Services who want to take her into custody. – Photo from family.

UPDATE 11/19/2015

From the Elissa’s Dream Facebook page:

Elissa is scared. A man named Stephen Dixon of Adult Protective Services in Vermont left a card on their gate Wednesday, saying to call him. When they called, he said that he wants to “help” get Elissa on her medications and have their services. He said he received a phone call and he was concerned about her not being on her meds. Elissa told him that she is doing great now that she is off of the medications, and doesn’t want to go back on them. She couldn’t function on them, but now she is doing much better.

The man told them that he will come back on Friday with papers for Elissa to fill out and sign. When the Maples asked for him to email or mail the papers, so that they could take it to their attorney, he refused. He said that he requires Elissa to do it in person on Friday, or they could go to the courthouse.

Dixon told them that he is working for Elissa. She wants to know, “If he is working for me, can I fire him?”

He said the papers say that she doesn’t want services, and that she doesn’t need or want medications. He said that if she does this, it will all be over. However, he told Elissa on the phone Wednesday that, if she answered his questions, that he would leave them alone. That wasn’t true, so they question if he is telling the truth about the forms now.

This sounds like a trap to them.

Elissa has been happy at home. She has just bought lots of photography equipment and is pursuing her love of photography – something that was denied her while she was in the group home. She is thinking more clearly and is functioning better now that she has weaned off of the medications. She says that she felt like a zombie before.

She is an American citizen, and is now an adult. All she wants is to be left alone. Why is that so much to ask?

Mr. Dixon wants to talk, so supporters – please feel free to contact him and ask him to leave her alone. His phone number listed on the card is 802 871 3333. His email is [email protected]

by Health Impact News/MedicalKidnap.com Staff

Elissa Maple was a bright young energetic 16 year old who reached a difficult emotional time in her life, as sixteen is a difficult age for most children. Added to this natural occurrence was her brother’s auto accident which almost took his life, her mother sought help for Elissas’s anxiety. A mother’s care for her child knows no boundaries, but it turned into a nightmare that would have Elissa drugged by hospital officials, kidnapped by DCF, and admitted to a mental facility masquerading as a school in Massachusetts.

Read the original story here:

Vermont Teen Drugged Against Her Will, Held in Custody in Massachusetts Mental Health Facility

It would take almost two years for Elissa to be returned to her home in Vermont. But the good news is that Elissa Maple is home now and very happy to be there. She’s becoming more relaxed due to spending time with her family and loved ones, activities that make us all feel comfortable about our lives and our futures. However, Elissa and her mother Karen cannot rest easy just yet.

The Battle for Elissa’s Freedom Rages On


Elissa is free, and smiling again. But for how long? Photo supplied by family.

Although Elissa was released under her own recognizance from DCF on her 18th birthday, Adult Protection Services continues to track her movements while allegedly taunting her and her mother with threats of Elissa having to be placed in an adult group home in Vermont. Franklin County DCF continually fails to relinquish custody of Elissa, says her mother, even after the judge released her on her 18th birthday. When the Vermont judge released Elissa, Vermont’s Franklin County DCF swooped in and placed her back into the system as an adult claiming responsibility for Elissa’s education and health.

DCF Wants Elissa in Their Care Against Her Desire and the Desire of Her Mother

When Karen Maple asked Franklin County why they still retained custodial rights to Elissa’s records since she’s been released, she stated she was told that DCF:

Just hadn’t gotten around to doing the paper work, but we hoped Elissa would sign the papers and return to our care as an adult. We didn’t get around to transitioning her, so why don’t you just let us keep her for another year?

This is concurrent with what workers told the court when they were asked why they had no transitional plan for Elissa, they responded,

We thought she’d need care for the rest of her life.

Returning to “protective care” after her allegations of the initial torturous and unwarranted care is the furthest thing from Elissa’s plans for her future.

Elissa simply wants to live her life like any young adult her age. Instead, Adult Protective Services continues to attempt to take over her life and throw obstacles in her path at every turn.

Can Those Who Inflicted Harm Now Provide “Help”?


Elissa is happy to be reunited with her mother, Karen Maple. Photo supplied by family.

The danger of the State stepping in and taking custody of Elissa once again is not something in their imaginations, says Karen Maple. She notes that at a previous trial, the judge’s comment (when DCF finally showed the court a transitional plan) was that the DCF 90 Day plan for Elissa’s home transition “sounded more like a life plan.”

Karen reported that the judge also noted that DCF had no legal grounds to hold Elissa since April of 2014, as she was not a danger to herself or others. But she contends they held her anyway, giving her experimental drug ‘cocktails’ and laxatives in order to support their claims of schizophrenia. Elissa claims that she was told that her mother “can’t afford to keep you. Your mother could die. Let her go.” Karen states the Massachusetts administrator told her to “Let us deal with your daughter, she’s damaged.”

Out of State Custody for Now, but Threats Continue

Karen also alleges that when she took Elissa for one of her weekly blood draws after being released on her eighteenth birthday, the lab worker refused to allow Karen into the room even at Elissa’s request, so they left. The worker reported the incident to Adult Protective Services, and they sent Karen a letter stating so, and added, “We don’t see any issues yet.”

All we want is for them to leave us alone. Elissa knows that even when the ‘paper work’ is complete that DCF may try to come back into her life years from now, and take her own children, claiming that she too is unable to care for them, and subject them to the same treatment she went through. After neglecting her education for almost two years, they enrolled her in school now–when she is being home schooled which is allowable and within Vermont educational guidelines. They get reports from every doctor no matter where we go. They say she is an adult, but they treat her as though she can’t make her own decisions.

They tried to brainwash her into believing she was not wanted, but I told Elissa: “Don’t give up on me because I will not give up on you.”

Any Emotional Trauma That Remains is a Result of Medical Kidnapping and Forced Confinement in a Mental Institution Where Elissa Alleges She was Abused


Elissa is reunited with her family and now in their protection. Elissa with one of her brothers. Photo supplied by family.

Elissa Maple was held against her will at a mental research facility, according to her mother. Karen still relives the events and recalls the day Elissa telephoned her and stated “Mommy, he hurt me.”

Karen was later told that one of the adult male employees had touched her inappropriately. The Massachusetts facility manager telephoned Karen and told her, but added that he had “only called because I didn’t want you writing letters…this is no big deal the kids are monitored on cameras,” says Karen. She claims this incident went unreported by that facility, and was never addressed by DCF.

The Berkshire Eagle reported earlier this year (February 2015) that a former worker at the same institution where Elissa was held is facing felony charges for allegedly sexually assaulting a young girl there between October 2013 and August 2014. (Source.)

Karen also recalls what should have been an overnight visit with her daughter being canceled, when after picking her daughter up from the facility, Elissa showed her the scratches down her legs and told her mother that “they said they would suspend our visits if I didn’t take the medicine.” The medication she was taking caused her to black out, and she would wake up with the scratches on her legs.

Karen took her to the hospital and the hospital called the facility. The police were called, and Karen says she was detained while the facility workers spoke to Elissa, telling her that “If you leave with us, you can have the visit at the facility.”

Elissa would later tell her mother that she left because she didn’t want the police to hurt her mother. Elissa was pleading “Don’t hurt my mother. Don’t hurt my mother.”A family member allegedly called the facility to let Elissa know that her mother was okay, and could hear Elissa in the background, and believed she was being sedated again. The visit was canceled, and Karen spent the night alone crying for her daughter in her hotel room.

Karen related that these were painful times for both her, Elissa and their entire family. Elissa says that she was punished for things that other students did, and had become overly apologetic for the most minor everyday occurrences. Something happened to Elissa under this ‘assisted care,’ but both she and her mother are finding their way back through the peacefulness, security, and the love of family. What will happen to Elissa if she is abducted again and returned to State custody?

A Mother’s Plea for Her Daughter

I’m not a criminal. I’m just a mother trying to protect my child.

Karen’s plea is for her daughter to be left alone. She believes Elissa has been through enough turmoil hidden under the guise of institutional assistance.

We are safe and surrounded by family and good neighbors. Just leave her alone.

Elissa is home and she is happy and just wants her life to be her own:

I just want them to leave me alone and let me live with my Mom.

Families without strong voices are being broken apart by nationwide “protective” social service programs, often experimented upon and institutionalized. Because these things allegedly happened to Elissa within the boundaries of two states, no one apparently stepped forward and challenged the systems except her Mom.

Karen has a strong voice. She is not only fighting for her daughter, but she may be fighting for your children too.

How to Help

There is a Facebook page set up for supporters to follow the story and offer support – Elissa’s Dream.

Maple Facebook

To support Karen in her Fight for Elissa’s Life contact:

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin at 802 828-3333. Contact him here, Tweet @GovPeterShumlin, or reach him on Facebook.

Senator Norm McAllister at (802) 285-6363, or contact him here.

Representative Daniel Connor at (802) 827-4436, or contact him here.