Voters in 40 Vt. towns to consider retail pot market in their communities

Published: Feb. 21, 2022 at 6:25 PM EST
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Town Meeting Day is a week away and voters in dozens of Vermont towns will decide whether to allow recreational marijuana sales in their communities.

Voters in some 40 towns across the state will consider the question, a jump from 33 last year.

Stephanie Waterman co-owns White River Growpro in White River Junction, where retail cannabis will be on the ballot next week.

She says she’s been fielding calls from people looking to grow in the emerging marijuana marketplace.

“Watching our legacy market come out of the shadows and come and participate in this new market,” Waterman said.

Last year, Hartford’s select board declined to put the question to voters.

Since then, Waterman has been out in the community trying to bring the issue to voters again.

“All of the farmers and the growers who are looking to enter this market need dispensaries to sell their wares,” she said.

Hartford and at least 39 other communities-- including Rutland Town, Manchester, Bristol, Essex, Milton and Moretown-- will vote on the cannabis question.

Moretown’s select board put the question to voters because they say cannabis is coming one way or another and it could boost local spending.

“There may be some opportunities for folks to set up shop and with that comes revenues for the town,” said Tom Martin, the chair of the Moretown Selectboard.

The Vermont League of Cities and Towns says the Legislature is still discussing local fees, where municipalities can charge $100 for a retail permit.

“There’s not a revenue stream to help you address the issues that come along with cannabis establishments in your community,” said Karen Horn of the Vermont League of Cities and Towns.

By state law, towns are not allowed to pass additional taxes on top of the 20% state tax. But if a town already has a 1% local option tax for restaurants and hotels, that covers cannabis, too.

While towns consider sales, the Vermont Legislature is putting the final touches on the market’s rules leading up to the launch of licenses on April 1.

“I think we are on track to get there. The board has done everything we can do to prepare us,” said James Pepper, the chair of the Cannabis Control Board. “Now, we just need a few other pieces to fall into place.”

Including hiring and training licensing and enforcement staff, and setting up the state’s online portal.

Regulators say the state is looking to set up a license preapproval process in anticipation of a flood of demand.

“Before they sign a lease, before they get their investors together, before they create a business plan,” Pepper said.

That process opens on March 16.

Lawmakers say they’re also considering cannabis event permits and even delivery.

Pot is still slated to hit the shelves in some communities by Oct. 1.

Towns considering allowing the sale of recreational marijuana in their communities, according to the Vermont League of Cities and Towns: Barre City, Bolton, Castleton, Chester, Derby, Eden, Essex Town, Fair Haven, Fayston, Ferrisburgh, Grand Isle, Hardwick, Hartford, Leicester Town, Manchester, Marlboro, Middlesex, Milton, Moretown, Mt. Holly, New Haven, Norton, Pittsford, Poultney, Proctor, Putney, Richford, Rockingham, Rutland City, Rutland Town, Sheldon, Springfield, Stockbridge, Stratton, Vernon, Waitsfield, Wallingford, Wilmington, Wolcott and Woodstock.

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