Canna’Curious: How Vermont Can Design A Kick-Ass Cannabis Industry (Part 2)

Vermont Hemp Fest presented by Heady Vermont at Burke Mountain on Saturday, September 9, 2017. by TG Branfalt for Heady Vermont.
Rob Williams 21 Aug 2018

In previous columns, I’ve begun unpacking our 2015 Vermont Cannabis Collaborative (VTCC) vision for a kick-ass Vermont cannabis industry that would:

  1. Increase the growing power of Vermont’s working agricultural landscape
  2. Create new opportunities for Vermont’repreneurs
  3. Provide more jobs in emerging cannabis and hemp-related industries for Vermonters
  4. Generate additional tax revenue for the state of Vermont
  5. Offer Vermont visitors cannabis and hemp recreational opportunities

We left off two weeks ago with three broad arenas in which Vermont can assertively move forward with this vision.

First, POLICY: Vermont must establish a tiered structure of cannabis and hemp cultivation that balances supply and demand, with a goal of keeping prices low enough to diminish the underground market.

Second, TESTING: Vermont must get serious about establishing and enforcing uniform quality and testing standards.

Third, RESEARCH: Vermont must create genetics research opportunities to unlock new medical treatments and specialized cannabis strains, positioning itself as a continental leader in cannabis and hemp research.

In this week’s column, I focus on POLICY. How can Vermont establish a tiered structure of cannabis and hemp cultivation that balances supply and demand, with a goal of keeping prices low enough to diminish the underground market?

We at VTCC generated our POLICY vision in consultation with two Denver-based experts – an economics forecasting firm and a law firm, both deeply familiar with Colorado’s transition to legal adult use. Our model estimated that post-prohibition cannabis demand in Vermont would be around 50,000 pounds annually.

The POLICY key to unleashing Vermont’s cannabis industry is to establish a three-tiered system of in- state cannabis and hemp growers that allows every interested Vermonter to participate.

In our VTCC vision, Tier #1 would be made up of HOME GROWERS, Vermonters who choose to grow their own cannabis for personal use. We estimated in 2015 that about 3,000 Vermonters fall into that category, producing about 7,000 pounds of annual supply. As of July 1, 2018, any Vermonter can now legally  “grow and use” cannabis for personal consumption, and interest seems to be growing in this newly legally option all over our Green Mountains.


Tier #2 would be comprised of what we at VTCC refer to as CRAFT GROWERS, Vermont’repreneurs interested in growing and selling artisanal cannabis. Craft growers, we concluded, “may not have interest or financial ability to create a big grow operation, but they deserve a place in this new economy.”

We also suggested in 2015 that craft growing would allow Vermont farmers to diversify their farms to produce hemp and cannabis that could be brought to market:

“A Vermont cannabis/hemp craft grower could choose to sell on the wholesale market to a retail store or a larger grow operation, or join a cooperative, much like the Vermont dairy farmers are members/owners of Cabot Creamery, where the cooperative provides structure, predictability, and a market for the product. Cooperatives are part of the fabric of Vermont, and we should do everything possible to encourage their growth in this new industry.”

Tier #3, we at VTCC suggested in 2015, would be COMMERCIAL GROW operations. Many Vermonters oppose Big Weed on principle, and we understand this concern. However, from a policy perspective, supporting the creation and deployment of large grow operations is essential to producing enough cannabis and hemp to meet market demand and hold prices down:

“To avoid market dominance by a few big enterprises, we recommend establishing a cap of 30,000 square feet for total facility footprint on large grow operations. We also recommend limiting the number of licensees. While the market is the best regulator of supply and demand, in this new industry the risk of overproduction is real, and other states have proven many businesses would fail without restraints on licenses and therefore supply.”

Policy wise, we also discussed creating a transparent “points” system for cannabis license applications that considered a wide variety of considerations – in-state investors, fair wages, responsible land management, use of renewable energy – to encourage both competition among applicants and creative planning.

These three tiers – HOME GROWERS, CRAFT GROWERS, and COMMERCIAL GROWERS – breathed into life by the conscious creation of POLICY from our Vermont elected officials, would go a long way to building our kick-ass cannabis industry. In our next column, we’ll consider the importance of testing.

In the meantime, don’t forget to register for HEMP FEST 2018 @ Burke Mountain. Gonna be a barn burner!

And we @ Heady Vermont welcome your best ideas  – feel free to email me at [email protected].

Let’s elevate the state – of cannabis and hemp here in Vermont!

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