MONTPELIER — The Vermont Cannabis Control board submitted its November 1 report to the Legislature on Monday, wrapping up a busy month of rulemaking on major components of the state’s future adult use pot industry, two major reports and no shortage of public commentary.
The Board’s latest report made recommendations regarding solid concentrate products above 60% THC, conversion of hemp or CBD to Delta-9 THC, and the Medical Cannabis Registry advisory entity, bringing answers to oft-repeated questions brought up in public comment periods by local medical cannabis advocates, cultivators and product makers.
Act 62, which was enacted this past legislative session, making amendments to Act 164, tasks the Cannabis Control Board with delivering two reports to the legislature this year.
On Friday, October 15, the Control Board submitted its first major report to lawmakers, outlining recommended licensing fees and other requirements for Vermont’s upcoming adult use cannabis market. The nearly 70-page document lays the groundwork for state regulation of a legal market starting next year. The board proposed rules and fees, subject to legislative approval, for those who will grow, process, test and sell the weed.
The second report, delivered Monday, makes recommendations regarding solid concentrates and prohibited products, conversion of hemp into THC, and changes to the medical cannabis registry advisory body.
Major recommendations highlighted from the most recent report include:
- The Board recommends removing from the prohibited products in 7 V.S.A. § 868 solid concentrates with a THC concentration of 60% or above for adults 25 years of age and older so that the CCB can regulate the manufacture and sale of these products.
- The Board, in consultation with the Agency of Agriculture, recommends that the jurisdiction of the CCB’s cannabis program encompass the manufacture and sale of products containing Delta-8, Delta9, other Deltas, and future synthetic cannabinoids with similar properties, whether they are derived from hemp or from high-THC cannabis.
In regulating these products, the Board proposes to: Create a license category for hemp producers who intend to synthesize products for the adult-use cannabis market; and create a product registration process
- The Board recommends that the Medical Cannabis advisory entity be composed of the following 12 members, including six registered patients, three registered caregivers, two licensed health care professionals with knowledge of using cannabis for symptom relief, and one licensed cultivator with expertise in medical strains appointed by the CCB from a list provided by a Vermont cannabis cultivation advocacy organization.
This advisory board will make recommendations to the CCB regarding the ability of patients and registered caregivers in all areas of the State to obtain timely, affordable, and safe access to cannabis for symptom relief, among other things.
Public Commentary Centers around Concentrates, Medical Patients
A spirited public comment session took place last Tuesday evening, which included heated debates over the fate of Vermont’s medical patients and a controversial ban on solid concentrates with more than 60% THC.
“All the members of that committee are from the dispensaries, specifically one dispensary,” said Jessilyn Dolan, founder of NurseGrown Organics and president of the Vermont Cannabis Nurses Association. “I do see that as a conflict of interest.”
“All the members of that committee are from the dispensaries, specifically one dispensary. I do see that as a conflict of interest.” — Jessilyn D.
Dolan, along with several other patients, expressed concern that medical patients were going to be lost in the shuffle as Vermont’s adult-use market comes into play.
Attendee Caroline P chimed in with her agreement in Dolan’s sentiment, saying, “I live in the southern part of the state and with my medical condition… It’s not possible for me to attend these meetings and I’d like to make my voice heard.”
“Consumers that want these products will obtain them on the illicit market, and that market will continue to thrive.” — Sam B.
Sam B described common practices for hash making processes, and pointed out the potential drawbacks of placing restrictions on high-concentrate products. “It will be almost impossible for it to be under 60%, which means the products will not be allowed on the retail market, which means that consumers that want these products will obtain them on the illicit market, and that market will continue to thrive,” he said. He also expressed concerns about accessibility for medical patients.
“I firmly believe that high concentrates have their place in a responsible market.” — Brian A.
Brian Ashram, who described himself as a native Vermonter, talked about his experiences providing medical cannabis while serving as his sick wife’s caretaker. “In all this time she wouldn’t try edibles…I finally let her try a strong edible and she had the best night of sleep she’d had in months.” he said. “High concentrates, with the right people and circumstances, can be used responsibly for very productive purposes. I firmly believe that high concentrates have their place in a responsible market.”
Another entertaining highlight was Dr. C. Cantley, who warned of high concentrate THC causing mental health problems, and used the word “psychosis” so many times that we lost count after 20-something.
Late last month, the Board set a rule prohibiting retail cannabis stores within 500 feet walking distance from a school. The rule adopted by the board will allow towns to reduce buffer zones – or expand them to up to 1,000 feet.
The three key members of the CCB debated rulemaking for existing dispensaries in their Wednesday meeting last week, including integrated operation requirements and transfer of inventory into the adult-use market.
“What we’ve been trying to do in our market structure is really focus on small cultivators.”
“We’ve heard over and over again about craft cultivators,” said Control Board Commissioner James Pepper. “And that there’s going to be some sort of big weed takeover…what we’ve been trying to do in our market structure is really focus on small cultivators.”
A bill passed by the Legislature earlier this year strengthening equity measures in Vermont’s retail cannabis market requires retailers, including integrated licensees, to buy 25% of their cannabis flower from licensed small cultivators.
In Wednesday’s meeting, Control Board member Julie Hulburd expressed concern about preventing loopholes in requiring that integrated license holders purchase 25% of their inventory from small cultivators.
And during a debate over transfer of medical dispensaries’ existing inventory to the adult-use market, Hulburd and board member Kyle Harris asked why transfer had been requested. Pepper said that the medical subcommittee “had requested it.”
Hulburd said of deciding details around the inventory transfer, “I need to hear public comment on that, particularly from patients,” with Harris agreeing. Pepper agreed to take it out and leave it for further discussion.
Both reports have now been filed to several House and Senate committees that may hear testimony in the next several weeks, before the full legislature reconvenes in January.
The market’s anticipated launch comes after Vermont in October 2020 became the 11th state to legalize adult-use sales.
The state’s vertically integrated medical cannabis dispensaries, which are owned by multistate operators, will get a head start in the new market. Recreational sales are expected to begin at those dispensaries in May 2022.
Newly licensed cultivators, by comparison, are expected to launch by May, with new retailers going online on or before October.
Vermont projects adult-use retail cannabis sales are projected to be $10 million by the end of 2022, with sales only taking place in the final quarter of the year.
The adult-use market will begin to ramp up in 2023, reaching $103 million in sales and then doubling in 2024 to about $220 million. From there, sales are projected to plateau.
Town halls are planned for November 18 and 19 to receive public comment on equity measures and other adult-use rulemaking aspects. “ We’re trying to do one in the southern part of the state or centrally located so we can get some different people,” Hulburd said during the Wednesday meeting of the Board last week.