Vt. Cannabis Control Board issues 1st retail marijuana cultivation license

Published: May. 16, 2022 at 5:57 PM EDT
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BRATTLEBORO, Vt. (WCAX) - The Cannabis Control Board issued its first license on Monday for retail marijuana cultivation in Vermont. Officials say more licenses are in the pipeline but frustration is growing for some who are trying to plant their roots in the industry.

Despite a slight delay in the cannabis licensing process, businesses looking to get into the retail cannabis space are moving forward with plans.

“I’m doing everything in my power to be ready to open on October first,” said Scott Sparks of the Vermont Hempicurean.

Sparks has been selling CBD in Brattleboro for four years. But next door to the Vermont Hempicurean, he has big plans-- a retail shop for marijuana.

Sparks is still waiting to hear back on his retail preapproval but is going ahead with the needed work.

“I’ve had multiple security companies come in and review it multiple times apiece,” Sparks said.

He also plans to grow cannabis onsite, which he has been preapproved for. But he says rules in this fledgling industry are fluid.

“It’s like one step forward two steps back,” he said. “The rules change somewhat. They get rules added to them. You think you are doing the right thing and then you have to back up and do something different.”

A small indoor cultivator in Rutland County was approved Monday by the Cannabis Control Board and dozens of others applications are nearing approval.

“We expect to license another handful of people next week,” said James Pepper, the chair of the Cannabis Control Board.

There has been a delay in getting licenses out the door, which officials say is mostly due to staffing.

“You know we can’t issue licenses until we have the staff in place to ensure that we are giving licenses to the right people and have the team in place that can ensure compliance with our regulations,” Pepper said.

Other states like Massachusetts and Maine have already legalized retail cannabis stores. Vermont is scheduled to join them on Oct. 1. But the drug remains illegal at the federal level.

“This is an incredibly complicated industry. It is because of the ongoing illegality of cannabis at the federal level,” Pepper said.

“I think it is unfortunate that Vermont is lagging behind other states around it,” Sparks said.

Sparks says his retail and cultivation business will be ready to go if and when he gets the greenlight. He says it’s an industry with a lot of potential.

“We do great with things like craft beer and farmstead cheese. And I see Vermont cannabis falling into that same line of marketing and branding,” Sparks said.

Officials say the initial delay in licensing does not necessarily translate into a delay when it comes to the Oct. 1 deadline when retail marijuana is slated to be legal in the Green Mountains.

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