Vermont cannabis farmers follow strict measures to secure crop

Published: Oct. 11, 2022 at 5:15 PM EDT
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CHAMPLAIN ISLANDS, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont’s retail cannabis marketplace opened this month and many farmers are now in the thick of harvesting and processing their first crop for store shelves. For many, the issue of protecting the lucrative crop has become a top priority.

“This is like two weeks out from harvesting,” said Sam Bellavance with Sunset Lake Cannabis. “Oh yeah, this is all really really nice stuff here.”

The company is a tier four outdoor grower located in the Champlain Islands -- Bellevance requested that we not give their specific location. He also doesn’t want to talk about the value of the 1,248 cannabis plants he’s harvesting. “A lot of it is just really common sense,” he said.

Part of securing the crop, Bellavance says, is being discreet, as well as the company’s relationship with employees and other vendors they work with. He says the precautions are among guidelines created by The Vermont Cannabis Control Board. “There actually are really strict rules on security and that is a big part of what the CCB wanted this year,” Bellavance said.

For Sunset Lake, that includes security cameras -- both visible and hidden, motion sensor lights, locks on greenhouses, and an electric fence protecting the crop.

During peak harvest, Bellavance will even overnight on the farm for added security. The total security costs -- not including time -- come to nearly $4,000.

“A lot of it is required and I think a lot of it is a good investment,” Bellavance said.

“It’s an attractive crop to steal,” said Cary Giguere, the Cannabis Control Board’s director of compliance. And Potential pot poachers be warned -- Giguere says cultivators have a menu of security protocols based on size. Indoor operations must have 24-hour surveillance in an alarmed facility. Outdoor growers have tiered security recommendations they pick from, including fencing, security cameras, and guards. “As you go up in size, the number of security measures you have to employ also goes up.”

Giguere says the rules provide flexibility for farmers to pick what’s best for them. Insurance companies also have security requirements that can be even tighter. “This is a personal investment for a lot of our growers and to steal their crop really impacts their ability to operate,” he said.

Back on the farm, Bellavance says he appreciates that flexibility built into the rules. He says they have a lock-tight facility and he looks forward to the future of the business. “Right now, Sunset Lake Cannabis will be in dispensaries heading into November,” he said.

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