Scott Announces Picks for Vermont's Cannabis Control Board | Off Message

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Scott Announces Picks for Vermont's Cannabis Control Board

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Gov. Phil Scott - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Gov. Phil Scott
Gov. Phil Scott has named his three picks for the Cannabis Control Board, the entity responsible for licensing and regulating all stages of Vermont's budding adult-use marijuana marketplace.

Scott's office announced the nominations in a press release Monday afternoon. They include James Pepper, a deputy state’s attorney for the Department of State’s Attorneys and Sheriffs; Julie Hulburd, the human resources director at the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation; and Kyle Harris, an agriculture development specialist at the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets.

The three were among nearly 100 applicants for the new board. The state Senate must confirm the nominees before they can begin their full-time gigs.



“The Board will play a critical role in ensuring public safety, equity and fairness while implementing this new market,” Scott said in the press release, noting that his three nominees bring  "diverse and relevant experience."
Pepper, who lives in Montpelier, has worked on several criminal justice reform initiatives as part of his current job, including bail reform, expungement eligibility and use of force standards for law enforcement officers, according to a bio included in the press release. He also worked on cannabis issues during his time as former governor Peter Shumlin's director of intergovernmental affairs and senior policy advisor.
James Pepper - COURTESY OF GOV. PHIL SCOTT'S OFFICE
  • Courtesy of Gov. Phil Scott's Office
  • James Pepper
Hulburd lives in Colchester and has more than 20 years of human resource experience, including a dozen years in municipal government. She also serves on the State Ethics Commission, which issued a controversial advisory opinion in 2018 that was critical of Scott’s ties to a construction firm that does business with the state. Hulburd took over as chair of the commission a year later and helped revoke the opinion, determining that the panel had overstepped its legislative mandate.
Julie Hulburd - COURTESY OF GOV. PHIL SCOTT'S OFFICE
  • Courtesy of Gov. Phil Scott's Office
  • Julie Hulburd

Harris, also of Montpelier, has spent the last two years focused on dairy innovation, maple initiatives and hemp business development in his role with the state. Before that, he worked as an environmental affairs attorney with the Corn Refiners Association in Washington, D.C.

Pepper has been nominated to chair the board. If confirmed, he'd serve a three-year term and earn an annual salary of about $107,000. Harris and Hulburd would serve one- and two-year terms, respectively, and make about $80,400 a year.

By law, Scott was supposed to have named his control board picks by January 8, with Senate confirmation on or before January 15; their terms were to begin on January 19. The process is now nearly three months behind schedule.

The delays prompted some advocates and lawmakers to question whether Scott was using the appointments to intentionally slow the rollout of the new market. Scott's office, meanwhile, contended that the legislative timeline was unrealistic, especially considering his pandemic-related responsibilities.

Kyle Harris - COURTESY OF GOV. PHIL SCOTT'S OFFICE
  • Courtesy of Gov. Phil Scott's Office
  • Kyle Harris
The governor, who personally interviewed all three candidates, said in a press release on Monday that he was "confident they will hit the ground running."

And they will need to, should they hope to complete the many tasks and meet the many deadlines required under Act 164, the law passed last year that legalized recreational cannabis sales in Vermont.

They will almost certainly miss at least one deadline: The law called on the board to recommend certain fees by April 1, and to begin making rules for cannabis establishments by June 1.

The law then calls for some licenses to start rolling out next spring, with the first licensees allowed to begin legally selling weed in May 2022.