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A closer look at the road to retail cannabis in Vermont

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NBC5 In Depth: A closer look at the road to retail cannabis in Vermont

why do you want to serve on this board? You know, I didn’t dream about becoming a cannabis regulator when I was a child, but I did mess myself in cannabis policy um under our former governor. And so when this opportunity came up, it felt like a natural extension of the work that I have been doing. What’s the agenda for this year? You have to report back to the Legislature pretty soon, Right? So the timelines have all been pushed out a little bit, um, through no fault of anyone. And so our next steps are really to hire an executive director, dig into the substance of the bill, create a market structure that meets the demands of the Vermont market and create a licensing and tiered structure with a report back to the Legislature on that On October one. So those are our next steps. How much latitude do you have in designing this new system for licensed cultivation, licensed retail operations? We have a decent amount of latitude. The Enabling Legislation Act 1 64 created this board and gave us a lot of discretion to design the contours of the market. But then all of our decision making really has to be approved legislatively, either directly, for example, the fee structure, um or through or indirectly through the legislative or administrative rulemaking procedures. So how many cultivators commercial grow operations do you anticipate? It’s really hard to say at this point. A lot of the market analysis that we have, both from the 2013 Rand report and from the 2020 Vincent Cedarburg report did not take into account new york, New Jersey coming online. They don’t really take into account potential federal legalization. And so their market analysis certainly needs to be updated. We can get a general sense of the number of people that are interested in becoming cultivators by looking at our current industrial hemp program and the people that are licensed through there. Um, but it’s very difficult to say at this point until we kind of update our market analysis because we’re no longer in the vanguard. That’s right where playing catch up a little bit. But I think that we are in a better spot now, having learned some of the lessons of some of the other states that have gone before us than we were when we first considered tax and regulate retail shops set to open late next year by statute. We have the integrated license holders which include a retail component Opening May one of next year, and the The general retail licenses being able to open doors on October one. Again, um, we need to allow adequate time to have our fee structure approved and then our application period are rulemaking completed our um, licensing periods open and close approval of those. So it’s hard to say exactly whether or not those deadlines will be met or how many shops you’ll allow or how many shops will allow. Yes. And there is a kind of an additional component to that, which, that the retail operations can be zoned locally. So there is some permitting issues that need to be worked out there as well. Well, you’re seeing a number of communities are weighing in on this affirmative. You know, opt in provision. I think we have 21 Currently, towns that have affirmatively opted into retail and integrated licenses in their communities. And we’ll probably see some more. Those are those are the folks that were able to, in a very short amount of time, build the support to get this on the ballot and have it voted on. But now that there’s been some time and now that people, we’ll have the benefit of knowing. So having some direction from the cannabis board, I expect to see more. Um, at the next town meeting day, it’s always struck me that this question is easy for a pollster to ask, but when you then drill down about some of the issues involved in regulation and testing and licensing, there’s a lot of complexity to this, isn’t there? There’s a tremendous amount of complexity. I think the reason why you see so many states do this from a ballot initiative as opposed to purely legislatively, and we don’t have a binding ballot initiative in Vermont is when you start asking questions about um canopy sizes and environmental regulations and energy use standards and energy audits and indoor versus outdoor. And it starts to become very complex. And I noticed when I started working on this in 2015 that I had to involve almost every single state agency, almost every single cabinet member, whether it was Department of Tax, Department of Education, certainly Department of Health and Agriculture. Um just this plant touches almost every single aspect of state government. Will we have to be price competitive with our neighboring states prior to federal legalization, if that is to happen? Um our state borders will act somewhat as a barrier to movement um theoretically theory, well, from a from a retail perspective, but we need to be prepared for that. And so we need to build on Vermont’s competitive advantages which are really having a diverse array of small cultivators, craft cultivators, and creating an ecosystem where we can actually thrive when um state borders are no longer a barrier to entry. And we have the kind of mass produced generic um strains flooding our markets from new york and massachusetts to people who have…

Read More: A closer look at the road to retail cannabis in Vermont

2021-06-08 22:13:00

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