op-ed

Op-Ed: Objections To S.54

Photo by Christina Lillie
Tyler Colford
Tyler Colford 9 Oct 2019

So I just read the rundown of Senate bill 54 – otherwise known as the bill to regulate and tax cannabis. While I am all for the sale of recreational cannabis, this bill harms basically everyone who is tied to the cannabis market, directly or indirectly; whether it be producers, possible entrepreneurs and small businesses, consumers paying a higher than market price, or those who have only received slaps on the wrist from driving while too high while there was only decriminalization.

In this article I will use quotes of the bullet points that Heady Vermont used in Summary of S.54: The Bill to Regulate and Tax Cannabis in Vermont. After a brief read, I had some concerns, mainly about consumer costs, monopolization, contamination, and a thriving black market.

With this dampener on free markets, consumers and possible cannabis entrepreneurs will be hurt, innovation in this market will retard, and when innovation does come it will disrupt the whole cannabis market in Vermont.

* “There will be no more than five integrated licenses…” 

That sounds like the NYC medallion system which created overpriced taxi fares, monopolies that cost a million dollars for a medallion in 2013 and ultimately was disrupted by market innovations, and ride share services like Uber and Lyft. With this dampener on free markets, consumers and possible cannabis entrepreneurs will be hurt, innovation in this market will retard, and when innovation does come it will disrupt the whole cannabis market in Vermont.

* “Cannabis products could not include nicotine or alcoholic beverages.” 

While the regulations also ban anything that might be considered as “products and packaging designed to appeal to minors,” products also cannot include nicotine or alcohol? So adult consumption of cigars and alcohol cannot be mixed with cannabis? 

Will Ben and Jerry’s be able to make ice cream or does that fall under a product geared towards children?

I’ve heard about neighbors brewing a cannabis/hop beer and filling cigars or tobacco wraps with cannabis since I was in middle school… or at least sometime in high school, years before cannabis was ever legalized even medically. This only leaves room for a black market. 

Another concern was just brought to my attention which are alcohol based extracts. I’m not sure whether those products would also be banned or if they would be regulated to a maximum percentage of alcohol present. Also a main question I have is… Will Ben and Jerry’s be able to make ice cream or does that fall under a product geared towards children?

* “Solid concentrates could not exceed 60%. Oils — apart from cartridges for vape pens — would not be allowed.” 

Again this leaves room for a black market. A market that could mean fentanyl or another impurity being laced in oils, wax, or dabs.

It just kind of feels like the state is saying whether an automobile producer can create both cars and trucks.

* “Ads must be approved by the board and must include warnings.” 

Well, at least they allow advertising, but I’m not sure what metric or how they will keep tabs on all the publication outlets, or how they would judge what an advertisement is versus what an endorsement is, or whether those mean the same things.

* “The board must establish a system of prioritization, including for applicants, that: are:… owned by minorities or women“

Since legalizing cannabis, driving under the influence, while not actually like driving under the influence of alcohol, has become a worse crime than the punishment for possession.

What? Okay so if you’re a white male and you have a passion for cannabis the state is actively acting against you. I’m not sexist or racist but saying that made me feel both. Really the real sexists and racists are the ones who wrote this bill. I’m glad that they are not barring anyone who has had a legal past with cannabis from entering the field but this wording will help disenfranchise a majority of people who have a passion for cannabis, yet fall into the race or sex that is being discriminated against.

* “Each applicant could only hold one license of any type, at one location.” 

Okay so the Vermont government is limiting how a business can expand vertically and horizontally. It just kind of feels like the state is saying whether an automobile producer can create both cars and trucks… I mean god forbid.

* “Detecting Impaired Drivers” 

Since legalizing cannabis, driving under the influence, while not actually like driving under the influence of alcohol, has become a worse crime than the punishment for possession.

* “…start accepting applications for integrated licenses, labs, and cultivators (prioritizing small ones)…” 

The state claims to prioritize small businesses, but by the action of licensing and regulation, the state is actively acting against small businesses since they are pricing them out of the market.

Tyler Colford is a 2020 Candidate for State Senate in Windham County, Vermont

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