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“What Can Cannabis Do For Vermont?” A CANNA’CURIOUS conversation with VTCC lead author Bill Lofy

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Rob Williams 28 Jun 2018

 

As soon as I become Heady Vermont editor, I started reaching out to fellow Vermont Cannabis Collaborative (VTCC) members to ask them to reflect on possible futures for cannabis and hemp in the Green Mountains as our July 1, 2018 legalization date approaches. In addition to being a successful writer, policy maker, and entrepreneur, Bill Lofy served as the lead author of our 2015 Vermont Cannabis Collaborative (VTCC) report, which grew out of 18 months of VTCC research, upon which we drafted a 60 page proposal for a regulated, legalized, taxed cannabis and hemp industry that could make Vermont an “East Coast cannabis center of excellence.”

Here are excerpts of our conversation:

HVT: Three years ago, you were a member of the Vermont Cannabis Collaborative (VTCC) and the lead author of our 60 page VTCC visioning document entitled “What cannabis can do for Vermont.”  You’ve thought long and hard about the future of hemp and cannabis here in the Green Mountains. As Vermont moves towards July 1, 2018 legalization of personal grow and use, where do you see Vermont going next with hemp and cannabis?

I see a thriving agricultural and entrepreneurial economy taking root in Vermont.

BL: As we described in our report, there’s huge potential for Vermont in this new economy, and we can choose to be leaders, or we can let other states take the lead. In recent years, policymakers have missed that opportunity, but it’s not too late to embrace change. We have an opportunity to create a reasonable regulatory structure around cannabis and hemp in our state, and we should take it.

HVT: Are you satisfied with the pace with which the Vermont state government has rolled out medical and (soon) recreational cannabis legalization?

BL: No. Faced with compelling data, research, and science, our legislative leaders have time and again lacked the curiosity and imagination to see beyond their own preconceptions about cannabis and hemp and the potential for responsible economic growth that a cannabis economy represents. But hope springs eternal!

HVT: What’s your “take” on Vermont Governor Phil Scott’s creation of a Marijuana Advisory Commission to help shape hemp and cannabis’ future?

BL: I don’t think we need a commission to review the facts, the research, and the experiences of other states that have chosen to end prohibition and create a regulatory structure around cannabis and hemp. We’ve spent years debating this issue in the State House and in communities throughout the state, and we have all the information we need to take action. That said, if the commission members are serious about creating a thoughtful regulatory system in Vermont, and if the administration and the legislature are serious about taking action on their recommendations, good for them, and good for Vermont.

HVT: What are the biggest obstacles to a legal, regulated, taxed cannabis and hemp industry in Vermont, in your mind?

BL: Lack of curiosity. Our policymakers are far more conservative in their outlook than Vermont’s reputation would suggest.

We’ve created an extraordinary brand in Vermont that can be leveraged to create a regulatory system that promotes safety, distribution of ownership, and economic opportunity for small farmers and entrepreneurs. It takes imagination and curiosity to create that system.

HVT: What advice do you have for Vermonters interested in hemp and cannabis agri’preneurialism?

BL: Don’t get into it if you’re seeking quick money. Lean into what makes Vermont unique, be patient, and look for ways to collaborate. We do better when we cooperate.

HVT: Describe your hemp and cannabis related work with Kria – what “value added” does Kria hope to offer to the Vermont hemp and cannabis landscape?

BL: An increasing number of Vermont farmers see hemp as a great new value-added crop. But the real value in hemp that is cultivated for CBD is in the oil, not the raw flower. Kria Botanicals provides extraction services to farmers who want to get through the bottleneck that exists between growing their crops and finding markets for their value-added CBD oil.

HVT: Reflecting on the VTCC vision from 2015-2016, do you imagine ways that our VTCC report and work might be useful for Vermont going forward?

BL: Absolutely. I think all of the research and recommendations that we made in the report are as relevant today as they were three years ago. We’ve lost some time, but there’s plenty left for us to create a regulatory system that fits firmly within Vermont’s tradition of excellence and progress.

HVT: Any other insights re: cannabis and hemp in Vermont you’d like to share?

BL: This is a really exciting time in Vermont. A new economy is growing, new entrepreneurs are entering markets that, until even a couple years ago, didn’t exist.

Innovation is happening all around us.  We have a choice, as a state, to retreat from change or to embrace it. But either way, change is coming.

HVT: Thanks for speaking with Heady Vermont, Bill.

BL: Thanks, Rob.

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