Will NH’s tax-free advantage go up in smoke next to Vt. pot shops?

Published: Mar. 3, 2022 at 5:29 PM EST
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WHITE RIVER JUNCTION, Vt. (WCAX) - More than 60 cities and towns across Vermont have now approved the sale of recreational cannabis in their communities. At least a dozen of them are located near the New Hampshire border, where marijuana has not yet been legalized. Some say it’s an opportunity to cash in on cross-border sales.

The state of New Hampshire has long prided itself on its tax-free advantage driving customers across the border. But with retail marijuana sales on the horizon in Vermont, business owners in the Green Mountains are hopeful that could take back some of that advantage.

“It’s a crucial step in the chain of getting this industry rolling, having more and more towns opt-in,” said Stephanie Waterman of Growpro.

Hartford was among the communities in Vermont to approve marijuana shops on Town Meeting Day.

Those in the industry say it’s all about keeping dollars local.

“More visitors to town is good for every business and everyone in the town because they are not just going to visit the dispensaries. They’ll have lunch and they will enjoy the downtown. Things like that,” Waterman said.

White River is just a stone’s throw away from the box stores in West Lebanon where, on any given day, green license plates dot the parking lots.

The lack of sales tax in the Granite State is a big draw for many.

“The perception of merchants is that it definitely has an effect,” said Beth Finlayson of the Woodstock Area Chamber of Commerce.

Woodstock also recently approved retail cannabis, a tourism town that business leaders say could benefit from new stores.

“I think it is more locals that perhaps go over to New Hampshire, people who are here on vacation or second-home owners are enjoying themselves in the town,” Finlayson said.

“We are worried that New Hampshire is going to get left behind and that consumers are going to leave the state,” said Rep. Tim Egan, D-Sugar Hill.

Marijuana is only decriminalized in the Granite State. However, there is a bill currently making its way through the Legislature that would approve recreational sales at state-run liquor stores. Those who support the bill say the tourism economy is a factor.

“If they are going to make their tourism decision, can I get it, can I use it legally, can I get access to it? Well, I can’t in New Hampshire but I can in Vermont, Maine, western Mass,” Egan said.

Lawmakers in New Hampshire say legal sales-- if a bill is passed-- would likely still be about a year away, which for the time being, would give border communities in Vermont the advantage.

“It’s nice to see Vermont winning in the retail zone for one thing anyway,” Waterman said.

The preapproval process for retail licenses in Vermont begins on March 16. Stores can begin selling retail cannabis on Oct. 1.

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