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Vermont Governor Signs Cannabis Social Equity Bill Into Law

Teresa Mann 9 Jun 2021

MONTPELIER — Vermont Governor Phil Scott has signed legislation into law that will provide financial assistance to social equity applicants seeking to enter the retail cannabis industry.

Senate Bill 25, or Act 62, appropriates $500,000 from the General Fund to establish a Cannabis Business Development Fund. The Fund will provide “financial assistance, loans, grants, and outreach to social equity applicants” who are seeking to operate state-licensed cannabis facilities. Regulators will be developing explicit criteria for these applicants at a later date.

The Fund will provide “financial assistance, loans, grants, and outreach to social equity applicants” who are seeking to operate state-licensed cannabis facilities.

The Senate introduced the provisions earlier this year after Gov. Phil Scott and others said that last year’s bill legalizing cannabis sales didn’t do enough to address social equity in the new marketplace.

Summary of Act 62

The bill tasks state officials with designing a system to provide loans and grants to “social equity applicants,” or people who have been disproportionately hurt by cannabis criminalization and want to enter the new market. The loans and grants will be supported by the Fund created by the legislation.

It requires retailers to obtain a portion of their cannabis flower inventory (25 percent) exclusively from licensed small cultivators.

Other provisions in the new law:

  • The bill does away with an outright ban on advertising for cannabis businesses.
  • Businesses can’t depict a person under 21 using cannabis or advertise in mediums where 15% of the audience is “reasonably expected” to be younger than 21.
  • Business cannot make deceptive or false statements or promote overconsumption.
  • It also affirms local controls for municipalities to decide whether or not to permit cannabis retailers in their communities.
  • The law earmarks a portion of tax revenues toward substance prevention programs.
  • Finally, it requires retailers to obtain a portion of their cannabis flower inventory (25 percent) exclusively from licensed small cultivators.

The advertising provisions and the language appropriating tax revenues toward prevention will take effect on March 1, 2022. All other provisions of the law take immediate effect.

Governor Scott previously signed legislation into law in 2018 legalizing the personal possession and home cultivation of cannabis by adults. He allowed separate legislation to pass into law last year regulating commercial cannabis production and adult-use retail sales. Those sales are anticipated to begin next year.

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