Licensing Update: 23 New Applications Approved, 2022 Revenue Surpassed $6M, Review of Social Equity Report
MONTPELIER – Today was the Vermont Cannabis Control Board’s first meeting of 2023. With an increased workload, the Board voted in its last meeting at the end of 2022 to switch to a monthly meeting schedule, provided Board Staff holds regular issue-specific information sessions and Q&As between Board meetings.
23 new adult-use licenses were approved by the Board today, including five retailers from Brattleboro to Burlington, nine manufacturers, and nine cultivators.
- Cann Maxx, Retail (Brattleboro)
- Wild Legacy Cannabis, Retail (Morrisville)
- Float On, Retail (Burlington)
- Matterhorn Apothecary, Retail (Wilmington)
- Bern Legacy Cannabis, Retail (Burlington)
- High Hopes, Tier 1 Mixed Cultivator
- Vermont Cultivars, Tier 1 Mixed Cultivator
- Medi Leaf Farms, Tier 3 Indoor Cultivator
- Palm Treez, Tier 1 Indoor Cultivator
- Givingtree Hemp Farm, Tier 2 Indoor Cultivator
- Mr. Tree, Tier 1 Indoor Cultivator
- The Higher Collective, Tier 1 Indoor Cultivator
- Paradise Farms, Tier 1 Outdoor Cultivator
- Emerald Roots, Tier 1 Indoor Cultivator
- Drink Taunik, Tier 3 Manufacturers
- Somewhere On The Mountain, Tier 2 Manufacturers
- Stone Leaf Process, Tier 2 Manufacturers
- Sunset Lake Cannabis, Tier 2 Manufacturers
- VT Skunk Worx, Tier 2 Manufacturers
- Vermont Select, Tier 2 Manufacturers
- Freedom Flower, Tier 2 Manufacturers
- Flower First, Tier 2 Manufacturers
- Formulation Station, Tier 2 Manufacturers
2022 Revenue, DLL Jurisdiction, Gender Bias, and more
The Agency of Administration released the year-end tax data for the state of Vermont which shows retail sales from 2022 surpassed $6 million. “I think this is a very healthy start to the market,” Chair of the Board James Pepper shared. He went on to explain how this number shows that consumers ages 21 and over are embracing over-the-counter cannabis.
This was swiftly followed by a reminder that, according to the current interpretation of the laws by the DLL, retailers who sell smoking paraphernalia (i.e., pipes, bongs, rolling papers) fall under DLL jurisdiction and must acquire a tobacco license. With this reminder Pepper noted that a retailer was paid an undercover visit by a DLL officer last week, something that was later raised as an issue during the public comment period by a meeting attendee.
Pepper then shifted to address the FDA’s recent statement on CBD as a supplement. “We don’t know the full implications of this decision other than to say that the sands are shifting under everyone’s feet,” he noted. Prior to this decision, the Board submitted a legislative report on the regulation of hemp derived products in Vermont. At the state level, the Board will take input from the public and the legislature to guide their decision on how to regulate hemp-derived products.
Control Board Commissioner Julie Hulburd addressed a disparity in treatment between female and male Board staff by members of the public and the cannabis industry. “It’s not always blatant or overt aggression,” she explained, exemplifying instances of people trying to skip a typical procedure by going to a man on staff with the intent of undermining what a woman on staff has already told them.
“I want to give people the benefit of the doubt, I think that a lot of this happens unconsciously,” Hulburd said. “Perceptions of power and gender are definitely deeply rooted in our culture.” Without sharing any names, she requested that participants in the cannabis industry and members of the public “do some thinking” about this aspect of our culture and to give all staff members the respect they deserve.
Board Statement on Delta-8 and Delta-10
These products and their likeness will not be registered by the Board, therefore making them ineligible for sale at retail establishments. Although the Board has yet to draft a rule on hemp, Executive Director of the Board Brynn Hare said, “the goal here is to give the public abundant notice that the policy position of the Board is to prohibit the use of synthetic cannabinoids and the production of any hemp-derived products.”
This prohibition excludes any naturally-occurring Delta-8 or Delta-10 and only applies to hemp-derived cannabinoids.
Vermont Agency of Agriculture Pesticide Guidance
The Vermont Agency of Agriculture now requires mandatory lab reporting on pathogens in pesticides. A representative from the Agency explained how licensees are responsible for knowing what is on the list of allowable pesticides.
Allowed pesticides in Vermont are based on active ingredients. Cultivators can choose from the list of EPA-registered products that have the allowed ingredients. Products on the allowed list are not based on whether or not they are organically certified. A pesticide that is organically certified does not always mean it can qualify for usage under the Agency’s rule.
- Keep track of application data, the tracking system that is being developed by the Agency of Agriculture will ask for this.
- The rental of spray equipment is not encouraged.
The Board allotted time during today’s meeting to highlight Project WorkSAFE, a free state funded resource available to all small businesses, including cannabis establishments. The use of this program is entirely voluntary and confidential.
Interested businesses can engage with the program as much or as little as desired. Everything from getting a question answered over the phone, to having site visits falls under the organization’s offerings.
Although Project WorkSAFE is not affiliated with OSHA, the program exists in order to help small businesses meet OSHA standards. The program ‘s main focus is to promote safety, not to distribute citations. However, if Project WorkSAFE team members are witness to a serious OSHA violation, they are required to fix the issue.
Control Board Social Equity Report
A large portion of today’s meeting was dedicated to reviewing the Board’s 36-page report to the Legislature on Social Equity in the cannabis industry.
As the report states, central to the Board’s mission is to “create a cannabis program that provides economic opportunities in the industry” for individuals who have been disproportionately harmed by cannabis prohibition. In recognizing the generational damage inflicted upon Black and Brown Americans as a result of prohibition, the Board said, it prioritized inclusivity in the regulatory framework and has endeavored to collect data to inform future decisions.
With the goal of reducing disparities in market participation, the Board has engaged in the following:
- Proposed and established comparatively low licensing and application fees to ensure the
costs of regulation are not a barrier to entry.
- Avoided imposing caps on the number of licenses to prevent creating an industry that
reflects only the most well capitalized businesses.
- Prioritized social equity applicants for licensure and for technical assistance.
- Adopted rules that do not impose broad restrictions for licensing based on criminal
history records. Instead, the Board considers applicants with a criminal history record on
a case-by-case basis, and limits licensure to only those that would not pose a threat to
the safety or proper functioning of the cannabis marketplace.
- Prohibited considering previous cannabis convictions as justification for denial of a
- Imposed employment and subcontracting requirements on larger cannabis businesses to
help ensure that the ancillary business activity the cannabis industry generates benefits
One of the main goals of the report was to share data relating to Social Equity and Economic Empowerment licensee market participation. The latter license type applies to individuals who don’t meet the criteria for the Board’s social equity program, but still come from historically disadvantaged communities.
Women, Veterans, people with disabilities, members of the LGBTQ+ community, First Nation/Indigenous/Native Americans, Asian American/Pacific Islander, and other communities of color not explicitly named in the social equity program qualify as Economic Empowerment applicants.
For more data sets on Social Equity and Economic Empowerment cannabis establishments, click here.
The Board recognizes that significant capital is required to cover both the start-up costs and maintenance costs of any business. Due to cannabis’ classification as a Schedule I drug, financial lending available for cannabis establishments is limited. This reality ensures that the vast majority of cannabis businesses must be self-funded.
While new applications for cannabis establishment licenses are declining, there remains a sustained interest in the industry from Social Equity Applicants. Brynn Hare noted, “The proportion of Social Equity Applicants that are applying now as opposed to when we first opened the application window is higher.”
As a result of this sustained interest, the Board has indicated that access to additional funding is necessary for new and existing licensees, alike.
Considering the generational impacts that cannabis prohibition has had on those who qualify as Social Equity Applicants, the Board has recommended:
- a portion of the excise tax revenue be set aside as financial resources for social equity applicants and licensees to ensure their access to and success in the industry.
- the Legislature create a Cannabis Community Reinvestment Fund to funnel cannabis revenue to communities disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition and allocate a percentage of cannabis tax revenue to the fund each year.
- the Legislature allow for additional license types such as delivery and on-site consumption. Delivery would create a low-barrier point of entry into the market, and on-site consumption would offer all adult consumers a safe place to consume and reduce the possibility of fines, arrests, and disproportionate criminal legal enforcement.
Public Commentary on DLL Enforcement
During the meeting’s public comment period, licensee and attorney Dave Silberman brought up issue with the Department of Liquor and Lottery’s interpretation of statute, insisting that the state agency was overstepping its bounds by requiring cannabis retailers to have a tobacco license in order to sell cannabis paraphernalia and conducting “raids” on retailers.
“I believe that applying for a DLL license exposes retailers to a level of regulatory risk that is unnecessary and uncalled for,” he said, “And I cannot recommend to my clients that they go that route.”
Silberman said that the Control Board’s education-driven approach over the past few months had made them, and their compliance officers, feel less like police and more “like partners,” and that a true education-first approach was “not in the DNA” of the DLL.
“They’re cops. And we don’t want cops involved in the regulation of cannabis,” he said. “They’ve done a pretty awful job of dealing with cannabis so far.”
Map of Retail Establishments
Number of Issued Licenses by Type and Tier as of 1/30/23
New Licenses as of 1/30/23
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