Cannabis, the Vermont Way: VTCC’s Vision To Grow a Thriving, Community-Based, Legal Cannabis Economy (Part 1)

Rob Williams 18 May 2018

A few weeks ago, I found myself with friends in Stowe attending a Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center show (Bruce Cockburn – in his 70s and still mesmerizing). I casually dropped what I have come to call the “C” question – how are you feeling about cannabis in Vermont?

To my surprise, a neighbor in our party, a successful Vermont businessman (now retired and in his seventies) glibly dismissed me. “If we’re counting on pot for tax money,” he said airily, with a wave of his hand, “I think that’s incredibly naïve and short sighted.”

That night, still blissed out from Cockburn’s incredible performance (thankfully, he is still “wondering where the lions are”), I dug out my three-year-old copy of our Vermont Cannabis Collaborative’s 60 page report, entitled What Cannabis Can Do For Vermont – How To Grow A Thriving Community-Based, Legal Cannabis Economy.

Who and what was Vermont Cannabis Collaborative? An ad hoc 7 person working group convened in 2015 and comprised of seven Vermonters: Gardener’s Supply founder Will Raap, Jogbra founder Hinda Miller, Magic Hat Brewing Company founder Alan Newman, Highland Sugarworks co-founder Judy McIsaac Robertson, Kria Communications co-founder Bill Lofy (formerly Governor Peter Shumlin’s chief of staff), Solidary of Unbridled Labor founder Michael Jager, and me.

Together, in conversation with Vermonters from all over the Green Mountains, VTCC spent more than a year researching, drafting, publishing and deploying a vision for a legalized, regulated, taxed cannabis industry – a vision we affectionately referred to as “Cannabis, the Vermont Way.”

As Vermont’s July 1, 2018 legalization date approaches, our VTCC report seems more relevant than ever, as it represents the most comprehensive thinking by Vermonters to date on what a legal cannabis industry might look like.

We see a market open to any Vermonter who wants to participate, where homegrown cultivators, craft growers, and larger grow operations are integrated to meet existing but currently illegal adult demand.

Currently, Vermont Governor Phil Scott’s Marijuana Advisory Commission, comprised of state officials and appointees, is tasked (through three subcommittees) with reporting “findings and recommendations” on important cannabis-related issues like roadway safety, education and prevention, and taxation and regulation.

Governor Scott, moreover, has charged said commish with assessing “high quality research, including evidence-based Vermont data to the extent it is available,” for the “following groups of health and safety endpoints” – “injury and death,” “prenatal plus exposure to marijuana,” “psychosocial,” “mental health,” “problem marijuana use,” and “marijuana use and abuse of other substances.”

Leaving aside the use of the racially charged term “marijuana” (why not cannabis?) throughout the document, let’s acknowledge that while these health and safety considerations are important, they do not provide a positive, forward-thinking, holistic vision for what a legalized, regulated, taxed, agri’preneurial cannabis economy for Vermont might look like.

Instead of leaning in to the possibilities, our Vermont governor has defensively framed the conversation.

VTCC offers a different framing.

What might a positive vision for “Cannabis, the Vermont Way,” look like?

Begin here, with a “picture starting to emerge of Vermont as a center for cannabis excellence,” to quote from the introduction to our VTCC report (7), and move forward with:

We see a market open to any Vermonter who wants to participate, where homegrown cultivators, craft growers, and larger grow operations are integrated to meet existing but currently illegal adult demand.

We see an opportunity to become the national research leader in cannabis genetics and medical research.

We propose a system of social enterprise centered on craft growing and cooperative agriculture, complemented by a regulatory structure that encourages shared wealth and access to capital.

Does this VTCC vision sound promising? Exciting? Forward thinking?

Read the entire VTCC report here, and look for regular updates in the months ahead.

Let’s elevate the state of hemp and cannabis in Vermont – working together, the Vermont Way.


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