Retail Launch is Coming, But Rollout Will Be Gradual
Next week, the day Vermonters have been waiting for will finally arrive: the official launch of retail cannabis sales in the Green Mountain State. But regulators, retailers and cultivators caution that residents should anticipate a gradual rollout of the new market, rather than an explosion of immediate dispensary openings.
“It’s going to take a little while before the market can fully regulate itself and get to a place where supply meets demand and everything like that,” Nellie Marvel, outreach and administration manager for the Vermont Cannabis Control Board, told Heady Vermont. “But we’ve got some good momentum ahead of us that we’ve built up already, and we’re pleased to be in a position where we were able to license a couple of retailers ahead of the Oct. 1 deadline.”
“It’s going to take a little while before the market can fully regulate itself and get to a place where supply meets demand.” — Nellie Marvel, Vermont Cannabis Control Board
The board began approving licenses for cannabis businesses in May, and as of Wednesday, had issued or approved licenses to 50 indoor cultivators, 67 mixed cultivators, 104 outdoor cultivators, three manufacturers, two testing labs, and two wholesalers.
So far, it has approved or issued two retail licenses — one to Mountain Girl Cannabis in Rutland and one to FLŌRA Cannabis in Middlebury — as well as one integrated license to CeresMED, the medical operator formerly known as Champlain Valley Dispensary. As an integrated licensee, CeresMED can technically begin selling retail cannabis at any time, but it plans to open its location in Burlington, which has a local opt-in measure that does not allow retailers to launch until Oct. 1.
There are currently 27 pending applications at various stages of the review process, according to board documents.
Cannabis Control Board Chair James Pepper said Wednesday that regulators expect to consider additional retail applications at their next meeting Sept. 28. There are currently 27 pending applications at various stages of the review process, according to board documents.
“I can’t speak exactly to which applications might be approved in the coming weeks, but I know our licensing and application team are hard at work reviewing those,” Marvel said. “And it’s very possible that on Oct. 1, there will be places that are open and ready for business.”
“Quantity is definitely going to be limited come Oct. 1. Most of the people we’re talking to are looking to be ready towards the end of the year.” — Ana MacDuff, Mountain Girl Cannabis
Mountain Girl Cannabis owners Ana and Josh MacDuff said their dispensary is on track to open its doors Oct. 1 at 174 West Street in Rutland. They expect to have indoor- and outdoor-grown smokeable flower available for sale. Due to the ongoing licensing process for manufacturers and wholesalers, their offerings will continue to evolve over the coming months, especially with regard to edibles, tinctures, water soluble solutions and drinkable products.
Licensing delays also left outdoor cultivators with a truncated timeline to get their plants in the ground this year, and these crops may not yet be ready for harvest.
“Quantity is definitely going to be limited come Oct. 1. Most of the people we’re talking to are looking to be ready towards the end of the year,” Ana MacDuff said. “Not everyone out there — there’s some folks that were able to figure it out and will have some stuff ready for us.”
Higher Elevation in Morrisville will also be adding products gradually. Co-owner Damien Evans said the dispensary has submitted its licensing application and plans to open in early October.
Higher Elevation in Morrisville will also be adding products gradually. Co-owner Damien Evans said the dispensary has submitted its licensing application and plans to open in early October with only CBD products and glassware. Once its license is approved, Higher Elevation will soft launch its THC inventory and expects to mostly have flower available at first, since most manufacturers are still waiting on approval.
“The edibles and tinctures will trickle in over time,” Evans said.
Marvel noted that, considering that the vast majority of licenses approved so far have been for cultivators, consumers should be prepared for some types of products to be unavailable in the early days of retail sales.
“With the limited number of testing labs that have been licensed, the limited number of manufacturers that have been licensed to date, it’s quite possible we’re going to see some early supply shortages and some bottlenecks in production,” Marvel said.
“The edibles and tinctures will trickle in over time,” Evans said.
Testing has been a potential snag for Family Tree Cannabis Co. in Sheldon Springs. Co-founder Jane Lanza said the cultivator is on schedule with its drying, curing and packaging, but the testing process is taking twice as long as it typically has in the past for the company’s CBD products.
Though Lanza is communicating with retailers about potential delays, Family Tree expects to have a limited amount of indoor-grown flower, pre-rolls, and solventless gel caps and THC oil available for purchase at FLŌRA Cannabis in Middlebury on the launch date. The company plans to partner with several other dispensaries once they are approved, such as Winooski Organics, Vermont Bud Barn in Brattleboro and Magic Mann in Essex Junction.
“With regard to our business and everybody else’s, patience is most welcome, because the rollout is intended to be gradual and slow.” — Jane Lanza, Family Tree Cannabis Co.
Family Tree will begin harvesting its outdoor-grown cannabis this week, with flower likely to hit the shelves in mid-November, Lanza said. By 2023, the business hopes to introduce gummies and skincare products to its inventory.
“With regard to our business and everybody else’s, patience is most welcome, because the rollout is intended to be gradual and slow,” Lanza said. “And I really feel like by 2023, there’s going to be some exciting stuff going on.”
Though it will take time, cannabis businesses told Heady they are excited to see Vermont catching up to other states that have already established regulated legal markets for the plant, and are hopeful that the retail launch will continue to help chip away at lingering stigma.
“Having an open store on 10/1 is really important to us,” Josh MacDuff said, “so that we can help advance this industry forward and give all the cultivators and manufacturers who have been working tirelessly to get to this point hope that this market is ready and sustainable.”
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