Cannabis Certificate Program Launches At Castleton University

Kathryn Blume 23 Sep 2019

Castleton University launched their Cannabis Studies Certificate Program this fall and an inaugural cohort of 60 students filled three sections to full capacity. With the launch of the program, Castleton hosted its first Cannabis Studies Conference on Friday last week. 

Aside from the networking and even a CBD cooking demonstration, Friday afternoon’s event featured a wide-ranging discussion on what the Vermont brand and economy would look like should a tax and regulate model be passed by the legislature in the upcoming session. 

The best case scenario would be a “craft cannabis” market that would be fully integrated into the Vermont brand as craft brewing.

“Cannabis is not new, it’s just newly discovered,” said Phillip Lamy, a Castleton professor of sociology and anthropology in his introduction. “It’s like Columbus discovering the New World, it was always there. We just rediscovered it, although for many cultures it never disappeared.” 

In a keynote address, Vermont’s Lieutenant Governor Dave Zuckerman offered his perspectives as the plant of interest changes in status from illegal, to being available as an agricultural commodity, as medicine, and maybe someday soon, a range of products adults can buy. 

“It’s nice to be in a room full of people who get it,” he said.  

Zuckerman devoted his time to explaining how wide-ranging state oversight of the program would benefit the most Vermonters. Vermont and other states have thwarted federal law to allow personal possession and cultivation, but under the current law, renters or those that don’t own property cannot grow or use cannabis.

“If you have a class consciousness about you, then the idea of the Libertarian version of grow-your-own does not quite satisfy equality and equal access that a tax and regulate model would,” he said. 

As the state grapples with the details and implementation of taxing and regulating cannabis sales, Zuckerman described a unique state model that would rely on supply from small growers, employ local workers, and limit investment from massive corporations from out-of-state. Doing cannabis “the Vermont way,” he said, could be a piece of the rebuilding of struggling rural communities.     

It was a theme that continued into the next round of discussion as a panel of industry lobbyists, consultants, attorneys, dispensary managers, and investment advisors held a wide-ranging talk on multiple perspectives including business, advocacy, taxation and regulation. 

“With us not being a referendum state we have the opportunity to make the Vermont way look exactly like how we want it,” said Eli Harrington, co-founder and head of Greenbridge Consulting Group, a consulting and lobbying firm for all things cannabis in Vermont (Editor’s note: He’s also one of the cofounders, and former COO, of Heady Vermont). 

Vermont’s bill to tax and regulate cannabis sales ran out of time to pass both chambers of the state legislature in the spring and advocates hope to get another attempt when the house and senate reconvene.  

Aside from setting up dispensaries and shops in popular towns, speakers described building cannabis into every part of the Vermont tourism experience, including specialty foods, lodging and tours. 

“Canna-tourism is one of the lowest areas of entry,” said attorney Tim Fair of Vermont Cannabis Solutions. “If you want to start an extraction facility, you need a lot of expensive equipment. If you want to start cultivation you need to know how to grow. If you want to start a cannabis tourism business that requires a lot less capital and a lot less specialized knowledge and it’s a way to make this industry accessible to a wide range of Vermonters.”  

On online forums, when visitors inquire about where to pick up safety equipment for their upcoming ski vacation, the best advice anyone can give is to stop at a dispensary off the interstate in Massachusetts. It’s a serious opportunity that a state with a longstanding tradition of high quality cultivation is missing, said Devan Walsh is the assistant general manager at Grass Roots Vermont, a medical cannabis dispensary located in Brandon.  

“I have no less than 20 people from out of state calling or stopping by every single week that I have to turn away,” she said. “The demand is there from the tourist perspective and we are actively turning away business and that is heartbreaking.” 


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