op-ed

Jahala Dudley: Place Adult-Use Cannabis with the VAAFM

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Jahala Dudley 8 Jan 2020

When it comes to regulating a new industry, there’s one agency that has the word “market” in their name. 

The legislative session has approached and with it, pot. In the State House cannabis exists most prominently in S.54, which has already passed the Senate and tosses rule-making and administration of a new cannabis marketplace to an independent commission called the Cannabis Control Board. That five person board, without any basic infrastructure, will write rules and regulate adult-use marketplace carrying with it an estimated price tag of $2.8M for FY20 through FY22. 

A similar approach was taken in Massachusetts. Four out of five of the board members appointed to the commission had actually voted “no” on the question to legalize cannabis. Funny enough, the commission was notorious for delays and fears of corruption in connection with license winners were widespread. 

This year in Michigan, Governor Whitmer scrapped the “Medical Marhuana Licensing Board” in favor of a “Marijuana Regulatory Agency” due to inefficiencies and inconsistencies in regards to processing license applications for Michigan’s medical marijuana growers and patients. 

Vermont is making a mistake by placing the responsibility of a new market with a commission.

We like learning from our neighbors, yes? In fact, wasn’t this recently a convenient excuse to delay the creation of such a market in Vermont? Ok, then let’s learn. 

Vermont is making a mistake by placing the responsibility of a new market with a commission. I say this in part because of our neighbors, but moreso because there’s a pretty nifty structure out there ready for the job. And hey, it even as the word “market” in the name: The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets. 

The Agency of Agriculture has experience in regulating an industry so similar, even the NYPD can’t tell the difference: Vermont’s Hemp Program. They are practiced rule-makers in this category and already work with hundreds of farmers, growers, processors, and laboratories.

We should value what the Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets would bring to this industry: experts, perspective, experience, and most importantly, infrastructure.

They have a state lab – the foundation of any regulatory program. They already have in statute a cannabis quality control program to develop testing protocols, verify labelling, test for contaminants, and to certify private testing labs. They are versed in licensing, food safety, testing, and appreciate the intricacies around the Vermont craft-marketplace. And, let’s not forget the dollars that could be saved by taking a commonsensical bottom-up approach and building on a foundation that’s already been poured. 

There is, of course, another department that has some experience. That is, the Department of Public Safety which is charged with regulating Vermont’s Medical Marijuana Program. But forgive me folks, I have serious concerns with the existing oversight. This is an opinion piece, afterall. 

We should value what the Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets would bring to this industry: experts, perspective, experience, and most importantly, infrastructure. Vermont should place cannabis in their wheelhouse. 

Jahala Dudley is a Board Member of Vermont Growers Association and Owner of Fox Holler Farms

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