Vermont growers worried as final House vote on legal cannabis market looms

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Medical Marijuana Chronic Pain_1551385823890

FILE – In this Oct. 2, 2018, file photo, a clerk reaches for a container of marijuana buds for a customer at Utopia Gardens, a medical marijuana dispensary in Detroit. Chronic pain is the most commonly cited reason people give when they enroll in state medical cannabis programs. A study published Monday, Feb. 4, 2019, […]

The Vermont House is expected to hold a final vote Thursday on a bill that would create a regulated retail market for recreational marijuana sales.

On Wednesday, the House approved S.54, which would levy a 14% excise tax on sales of marijuana products and a 6% sales and use tax. The House’s final version includes amendments that raise the definition of a small cultivator from 500 square feet of grow space to 1,000; and reduces the total THC allowed in edibles pacakges from 100mg to 50.

If approved Thursday, the bill would move to the Senate, which has already passed a version that proposes a 16% excise tax and a 2% local options tax. The two chambers would have to work out the differences before sending it to Gov. Phil Scott.

The House bill would allow retail dispensaries to open in 2022. But a provision that essentially grants the state’s five medical marijuana dispensaries a head-start on recreational sales has angered local growers and their advocates. They say because three of the dispensaries rely on out-of-state investors, the legislation “prioritizes out-of-state cannabis corporations.”

Justin Lang of Farm Fresh Hemp said the state’s small cannabis growers “feel shafted” by the provision, which does not categorize cannabis as an “agrictultural product.” The distinction means farmers would need a separate license to grow cannabis, as well as local approval to open a dispensary.

“It’s unfair and sickening that VT would make equal comparisons between corporate growers and small growers,” Lang said. “Vermont was founded on craft products and when you give more opportunity to corporations than to local producers, it leaves a very bad taste in the mouth of Vermonters.”

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