Heady How-To: Pre-Qualification for Vermont Cannabis Applicants

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Meg McIntyre 16 Mar 2022

As the opening of Vermont’s legal cannabis market draws closer, the Cannabis Control Board on Wednesday officially launched its pre-qualification process for prospective cannabis license holders. 

In anticipation of the roll-out, we chatted with Cannabis Control Board Commissioner Julie Hulburd and the board’s outreach and administration manager, Nellie Marvel, to get answers to your burning questions around pre-qualification.

What’s the benefit of being pre-qualified?

The pre-qualification period will give the Cannabis Control Board a sense of the emerging market, as well as a head start on administrative hurdles such as criminal background checks.

“That will give us a real picture of where there might be gaps in the supply chain and where we might need to do some work to encourage people into the market or make adjustments so that we’re prepared for how the supply chain will roll out,” Hulburd said.

For prospective license holders, pre-qualification is intended to help smooth the application process and potentially aid entrepreneurs in their business development activities. 

“The pre-qualification is meant for people who want to have that piece of paper in hand, or that assurance from the board that at the time that they submit their information, they are pre-qualified,” Hulburd said. “And we know that for some folks that helps go set up bank accounts, or it might help with some reassurance if they’re seeking to lease a space or if they’re seeking funding and working with investors.”

Who should apply for pre-qualification?

Whether to apply for pre-qualification is completely up to you, and may depend on what license type you plan to pursue. For example, small cultivators, integrated licensees and testing laboratories can start submitting full applications on April 1, so pre-qualification likely won’t make sense for these applicants.

“For some, absolutely, this could be something that makes sense for them, but it’s really up to the individual applicant whether this is a route that they want to go,” Marvel said.

Those planning to pursue more than one license type will need to submit separate pre-authorization applications for each license type. Each person who is a principal or has controlling interest in the company will need to fill out the required forms separately. 

Will being pre-qualified affect my chances of obtaining a license?

Pre-qualification is not required to become licensed as a cannabis establishment in Vermont, and businesses who don’t seek pre-qualification won’t be penalized later on. Obtaining a pre-qualification also does not guarantee full licensure, and pre-qualified applicants won’t receive priority during the full approval process.

What documents do I need for pre-qualification?

The application asks for three documents:

  • Form B, which asks for contact information for each principal, controlling person or controlling entity involved in your business
  • An operating plan detailing: your business’ legal name and any other names it is registered to conduct business under; a copy of the organization’s Vermont business filing; information for the company’s main point of contact; a list of principals and controlling members; your intended license type and tier; and a disclosure of any principals or controlling members who control interest in a cannabis business in another jurisdiction 
  • A criminal history record check for each applicant, principal or controlling member in the business, which requires a set of fingerprints and a copy of their driver’s license or government-issued ID

Marvel noted that the operating plan is not a full-fledged business plan, and applicants don’t need to have a finished business plan to be eligible for pre-qualification. 

A record of convictions in Vermont can be requested online and requires a payment of $30. To get a federal record check, applicants must schedule an appointment to be fingerprinted at a local, county or state law enforcement agency. Applicants should specify they are requesting a background check for their own records, rather than requesting that these records be sent directly to the Cannabis Control Board.

“So they will request those records from the FBI to be sent to them, and then they will send those records to us,” Marvel said. 

The cost for requesting a criminal history report from the FBI is $18.

How much does it cost to obtain pre-qualification?

The fee to apply for pre-qualification is $500. However, the Cannabis Control Board isn’t accepting payments just yet, and won’t be able to do so until the Legislature gives the OK. So for the time being, you won’t be asked to submit any funds when filing your application. Hulburd said the board plans to reach out to applicants directly once it has been authorized to collect payments.

Though the board has recommended waived application fees and graduated license fees for social equity applicants, all applicants will be charged the same fee for pre-authorization, as the board is not yet evaluating eligibility for the social equity program. Hulburd said the commissioners are exploring whether the $500 could be deducted from future fees collected during the licensing process.

Is there a deadline to apply for pre-qualification?

The pre-qualification period does not have a set closing date. Once a pre-qualification is issued, applicants have one year to seek a full license before their pre-qualification expires.

“I think we’d rather have people take the time to make their applications complete and prepared than trying to rush them through,” Hulburd said.

Additional questions can be submitted to [email protected] or 802 828-1010, ext. 3. Please be patient in waiting for a response — the Cannabis Control Board is currently fielding a large volume of inquiries.

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