Hurdles remain to Vt. regulated cannabis market by 2022

Published: Oct. 8, 2020 at 5:40 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont is entering a new chapter after the budding retail cannabis industry got the green light late Wednesday from Governor Phil Scott. After nearly two decades of debate, the Republican governor allowed a bill that would set up a system to legalize sales of recreational marijuana to become law without his signature, but there are still more questions than answers about what exactly sales will look like.

It’s off to the races for growers, business owners, and cannabis advocates. Kelsy Raap is the marketing director at Green State Gardener in Burlington, which sells CBD and the equipment for Vermonters to grow hemp and cannabis at home. “The desire to grow cannabis is a lot different than the desire to use it,” Raap said.

Vermont may be turning the page to a regulated market, but there are still lots of details to hash out. Every town has to opt-in. They’ll choose how many retail stores can open and when and where they’ll operate. But it’s not just stores, an entire framework of interconnected industries now has access to a regulated commodity.

“Whether you want it to be retail on main street to help your downtown or you want it to be cultivation in a farming area, whether you want manufacturing to revitalize manufacturing areas, that’s going to be up to you,” said Eli Harrington with Greenbridge Consulting.

A statewide appointed regulatory cannabis control board will decide how many growers receive licenses, where they’ll be, and how much they’ll cost -- from the retailers to the equipment manufacturers to wholesalers to labs -- all the way to the growers.

But now that the cat is out of the bag, some opponents to cannabis sales say tax revenues may be less than expected because of how the market is set up. “States are routinely losing money on legalization regimes because they have to set up a whole new regulatory framework. They have to monitor and inspect hundreds and hundreds of pot shops, or thousands in the case of Colorado,” said Luke Niforatos with the group Smart Approaches to Marijuana.

Raap says legal sales means reducing the stigma to cannabis. “Anything that advances legalization and brings cannabis out from the shadows is a step in the right direction,” she said.

Even as people are clamoring to hop onto the new commodity, it won’t be until 2022 when you’ll actually be able to buy it in a retail setting.

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