Vt. cannabis advocates seek to loosen consumption rules

Published: Apr. 20, 2023 at 5:26 PM EDT
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WATERBURY CENTER, Vt. (WCAX) - Cannabis consumers and advocates across Vermont Thursday celebrated the first 4/20 holiday marking the availability of legal pot in the state. The state allows people to purchase cannabis, grow it, and possess it, but you still can’t consume it in public areas. Now, some industry advocates are pushing to change that.

On this 4/20, Zenbarn Farms in Waterbury Center is celebrating cannabis, its history, and the success of the Green Mountain State’s retail market so far.

“It’s a new wave of people that are coming in,” said the store’s Marlina Tucker-Fishman.

“So far, we have been floored by the community response,” added the store’s Noah Fishman.

The couple says their goal is to make cannabis accessible to Vermonters and tourists while at the same time educating them. “A gradual build toward destigmatization of the plant, fully. We want this to be like any other agricultural product,” Fishman said.

But advocates say to accomplish that, they need to overcome the major hurdle of consumption rules. “We haven’t yet created a regulatory vehicle where we can say, hey, pay $100, get your special event permit, put up a fence over here, check IDs, and say just like, ‘We have an alcohol consumption area, we have a place where you can consume cannabis,’” said Eli Harrington with Vermontijuana. He says this type of permitting would cultivate agritourism ventures for the budding industry and backstop businesses that want to allow consumption in a regulated manner.

“It’s not about getting people high in more places, it’s about acknowledging these realities and really giving these businesses protection.”

The state’s Cannabis Control Board says that revenue remains higher than anticipated and licenses for cultivators and businesses continue to roll out. But when it comes to consumption, the board’s James Pepper says the Legislature has largely balked at the idea of major regulation changes during this first trial year.

But when it comes to the future... “I really think that Vermont should focus on outdoor consumption first,” Pepper said. He says that would mean licenses for events like weddings, festivals, or even over 21 farmers’ markets where cultivators can directly reach consumers. “In a controlled, regulated way that accounts for highway safety concerns.”

Back at Zenbarn, the owners would like to go one step further, allowing for consumption standards that mirror cigarettes. But while they wait for regulatory changes, they say they will still celebrate and promote the product, even if they have to wait until they get home to consume it. “Let’s get people to want to come here for cannabis and for that full cannabis experience,” Fishman said.

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