Vt. cannabis farmers ramp up to supply new marketplace

Published: Aug. 12, 2022 at 5:43 PM EDT
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CRAFTSBURY, Vt. (WCAX) - In less than two months, people will be able to buy marijuana in stores across Vermont. Reporter Calvin Cutler visited the state’s largest grow operation to see what it takes for farmers poised to supply the state’s new legal marketplace.

Some would call it a field of dreams. “Having a license to do this in Vermont doesn’t feel real yet,” said Dan Pomerantz, the founder of Rebel East in Craftsbury.

After living in California, he moved back to Vermont to raise his family and get involved with the green. “There’s a lot going on between managing the cultivation aspects, the business sides, the compliance sides,” Pomerantz said.

We got an up-close view of the farm’s 1,200 plants, the largest licensed grow operation in Vermont. Depending on the weather, he says the crop will yield several hundred pounds of pot. “Cultivating it -- it’s a weed and it’s easy to grow but it’s not easy to grow it well. Our goal is to grow it so it’s a memorable experience that’s really exceptional,” Pomerantz said.

The operation is one of about 150 that are creating the supply for the recreational market this fall. It’s estimated Vermont needs about 500,000 square feet of cannabis canopy to meet demand. Most of the state’s licensed grow operations are outdoors.

“We need to license more than the 500,000 target because you only get one harvest in Vermont as opposed to four, five, or six indoors,” said James Pepper, chair of the Vermont Cannabis Control Board. He says some growers waiting in the cue are chomping at the bit, some planting before getting approval, and are technically violating state law. “We can’t control what law enforcement does with these operations but strictly from the board’s perspective, we’re not going to fine you because you decided to grow early.”

Vermont is aiming to mirror the craft beer industry -- grown, processed, tested, and sold in-state. All of this weed will make it to the shelves. Right now there are some 60 retailers in the pipeline as Vermont’s budding industry begins to grow.

Pomerantz wants Vermonters to think about where their cannabis comes from. “What makes Craftsbury taste unique versus the Champlain Valley? What is it about the climate and the natural elements, plus what we’ve developed in the soil here compared to what we developed down the road?” he said.

It will still be some time before the plants at the farm are ready to be harvested, processed, and shipped off to shelves. Pomerantz says that will happen this fall.

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