The long wait for legal cannabis sales in Vermont ended Saturday when three retail shops opened their doors to recreational users for the first time.
Dave Silberman, co-owner of Flora Cannabis in Middlebury, said the days of cannabis being sold “in the shadows” are over.
“Opposition in the legislature, in the governor’s office — we had a lot to overcome,” he said. “But at the end of the day, what we put together is as good a legal structure as any state has.”
Mountain Girl Cannabis in Rutland and CeresMED in Burlington were also open for business Saturday. A fourth business has been licensed to sell recreational pot but isn’t ready to do so yet.
Vermont’s inaugural weekend will be “more of a soft opening,” as more product manufacturers and testing facilities come online and as more people harvest the plant, said James Pepper, chair of the state Cannabis Control Board.
Vermont will join 14 other states with legal adult-use cannabis sales, according to the Marijuana Policy Project. Four other states — Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island, and Virginia — and Washington, D.C., have legalized the use of recreational marijuana, but sales haven’t started there yet.
A line of almost 100 people from across the state were at Flora for their grand opening. The shops first sale went to Caesar Wright, who said he’s been counting down the days to October 1 for a year. Wright celebrated by buying two strains.
“I’m so thrilled,” he said. “I bought one box of the Ice Cream Cake and Sundae Sherbet. And this little can is the sativa.”
Silberman said Flora had 11 strains of cannabis — flower and pre-rolls — from five growers available Saturday. Edibles and other products won’t be in stock until after the harvest.
“There are plenty of consumers to go around,” he said. “It’s going to be a collaborative industry here.”
Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project, which worked for years to legalize cannabis in Vermont, was also one of Flora’s first customers.
“There was study commission after study committee– it was a really thoughtful and informed process over a long period of time,” he said. “And I think they’ve written a really good law. And I think it’s going to by a market that Vermont will be really proud of.”
Vermont’s Cannabis Control Board prioritized review and waived licensing fees for social equity applicants. Such applicants are Black or Hispanic, or from communities that historically have been disproportionately affected by cannabis being outlawed or who have been or had a family member who has been incarcerated for a cannabis-related offense.
More than 30 social equity applicants, mostly growers, have been approved, with Mountain Girl Cannabis, owned by Ana and Josh MacDuff, being the first such retailer.
“For us it was really important to be first in Vermont, or one of the first,” said Ana MacDuff, who is Hispanic.
Simon and Silberman say the state law that allows retail license holders to operate a single location will help first-time business owners.
Democratic candidate for governor, said the opening of Vermont’s retail market “is a really big moment.”
“Think about what this does for downtown Middlebury, and downtown Rutland and downtown Burlington and all the other shops that are going to open soon,” she said. “This is a huge revenue boost.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.