Vermont Cannabis Regulators Commit to Social Equity

Heady Vermont Staff 4 Jun 2021

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Cannabis Control Board will prioritize equity as it begins to build a regulated adult-use cannabis market, VT Digger reports. The three-member board has until October 2022 to craft rules for cannabis retailers, producers, and labs; develop a license fee structure; and recommend who receives financial assistance from the state to open a cannabis business.

Board Chair James Pepper said the Commission would work to build a “diverse and equitable” market that, “builds upon Vermont’s competitive advantages, and can sustain and thrive in an eventual transition to federal legalization.” He said the state would like to create a “sustainable” revenue stream to help alleviate “second and third-order” consequences of the war on drugs through economic empowerment, according to the report.

To aid the Commission in their work, the legislature recently passed a bill — expected to be signed by the governor in the coming days — that will help people disproportionately affected by the war on drugs to apply for loans and grants for cannabis-related businesses.

Vermont’s executive director of racial equity, Xusana Davis, has been working with lawmakers and the Cannabis Control Board to develop social equity criteria. She believes “race and ethnicity” should center the discussion but feels other factors like sex, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, and poverty could also be considered.

“It really depends on how broad you want to go, right? For example, we haven’t historically considered people with low or no academic attainment as a historically marginalized group, but maybe we should, right?” — Xusana Davis via VT Digger

Davis believes the state should reach out to underground cannabis producers because they “know the market” and it would be a way for the state to automatically include “historically marginalized” individuals.

The other two board members expressed similar views to Chairman Pepper in the report. Kyle Harris said the market needs to be “rooted in equity” and should “pay close and special attention to small cannabis growers.” Board member Julie Hulburd said they had a “historic responsibility to build a foundation for which inclusive and restorative practices are the cornerstone” of the cannabis industry.

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