Attorney general holds panel on commercializing cannabis

Published: Dec. 6, 2019 at 12:38 AM EST
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Vermont's attorney general wants the state to get out of legal limbo. Vermont allows marijuana, but there's still no legal market for sales.

A panel on Thursday focused on our neighbors in Maine and Massachusetts and how they are handling the same issue.

Vermont legalized recreational marijuana more than a year ago.

This past legislative session, Vermont lawmakers came close to legalizing sales but ran out of time.

Despite a Democratic supermajority in the House and Senate, they couldn't find an agreement.

Attorney General T.J. Donovan, D-Vermont, hopes lessons from other states could help lay a path for Vermont.

"I think one of the biggest hurdles is the regulatory process is very slow in Massachusetts," Kevin Conroy said.

Conroy is a lawyer who works with businesses in Massachusetts' marijuana market. He says applying for a permit can take a long time.

"And so we see about a two-year timetable from the day you apply for an application to actually get open and that's a long time," Conroy said.

Officials from Massachusetts and Maine say creating legislation can also be tough.

"There are a lot of hurdles; there's no specific road map to any one state, so it's a learning experience for everybody that goes through the process," said Erik Gundersen, of the Maine Office of Marijuana Policy.

Both states have gone through the recreational-market creation process in their respective states, and as Vermont tries to move in that direction, state leaders are looking to their neighbors for advice.

"I do think it's really important to get the legislation right, and you want to make sure the stakeholders who care about this legislation in Vermont have an opportunity to weigh in," Conroy said.

"It's incredibly helpful that help, that expertise, that knowledge, the regulator side of marijuana is a pretty small tightknit community and everybody is willing to help everybody else out," Gundersen said.

Maine just started accepting applications for businesses that want licenses to sell recreational marijuana.

"One of the goals that we put out there was to make applications public by the end of 2019 and we're happy today to deliver on that commitment," Gundersen said.

Both Conroy and Gundersen say they've attended similar discussions with other states in the past, and hosting an event like this shows that Vermont is taking the right steps toward education and maybe even implementation.

The Vermont state Legislature will discuss the creation of a recreational market in this upcoming legislative session.