Burlington City Council Green-Lights Four Cannabis Businesses | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice



Burlington City Council Green-Lights Four Cannabis Businesses


Published September 19, 2022 at 11:23 p.m.

Russ Todia and Meg D'Elia of Ceres Collaborative at a meeting last week - SASHA GOLDSTEIN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Sasha Goldstein ©️ Seven Days
  • Russ Todia and Meg D'Elia of Ceres Collaborative at a meeting last week
Three cannabis shops are a step closer to opening in Burlington after city councilors signed off on their plans on Monday.

The applications were the first considered under the city’s cannabis control process, which requires weed entrepreneurs to obtain local approval on top of a state license. Only one of the companies vetted on Monday — Ceres Collaborative — has a state permit in hand.

The council also OK’d an application for an indoor cultivation business. All three retail shops aim to open on or around October 1, the expected first day of sales in Vermont’s adult-use market.
Some pertinent business details, however, were shielded from public inspection. Councilor Joan Shannon (D-South District) said state regulators told the city to redact names and addresses from the applications due to a provision in the Vermont Public Records Law. City attorneys agreed with the state's interpretation, Shannon said.

"I honestly don't know why we would have a local control board if we have no way of allowing the public to participate in any process whatsoever because they have no information — except possibly the hours of some business somewhere in the city," Shannon said.

Shannon then invited the applicants to voluntarily share details about their businesses, and all in attendance were happy to do so.

Representatives from Ceres, which is owned by Toronto-based SLANG Worldwide, said they plan to sell cannabis products at their 190 College Street storefront, just off Church Street. The business previously offered CBD products there.

"We look forward to being a responsible corporate citizen here in Burlington," said Russ Todia, Ceres Collaborative's chief operating officer.

Jahala Dudley described her company, Grass Queen, as a women-owned, majority queer-owned business that will run a small retail shop at 71 South Union Street, sharing a building with Folino's Pizza and the Wallflower Collective.
Kennet Dall, center, speaking at a meeting last week - SASHA GOLDSTEIN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Sasha Goldstein ©️ Seven Days
  • Kennet Dall, center, speaking at a meeting last week
Dudley said she wants the shop to be inclusive and said it will cater to "older users that maybe have not felt comfortable" purchasing or using cannabis.

The third shop will open at 699 Pine Street as an offshoot of Green State Gardener, a CBD and grow-supply store. The new Green State Dispensary will be the company's "THC-facing business," chief operations officer Brooke Jenkins said, referring to tetrahydrocannabinol, a psychoactive compound found in cannabis.

Jenkins said the Pine Street site will also have a "tier one" cultivation facility, the smallest type of grow operation.

Councilor Mark Barlow (I-North District) expressed some concern about Green State Dispensary's proximity to the Champlain Elementary School on Pine Street. At about 0.4 miles away, the shop would be well outside the state-mandated 500-foot buffer. But Barlow wondered if the city should consider enlarging the buffer zone between cannabis operations and schools.

Assistant city attorney Hayley McClenahan said the city would need to research whether that's possible under state law.

The cultivation applicant, Kennet Dall, was not in attendance, but told the council's cannabis control subcommittee last week that his grow operation would be located inside his New North End home.

"I am ready to commence operating on a very small scale," Dall told the subcommittee. "My operation will be more of a first stepping stone to where I can hopefully grow the business in years to come and most likely move into a bigger facility, probably located in a more rural area."
Also Monday, councilors approved a job description for a new staffer meant to help rebuild the police department’s ranks. The item passed on a 7-1 vote, with Councilor Perri Freeman (P-Central District) voting no. Councilors Sarah Carpenter (D-Ward 4), Ali Dieng (I-Ward 7) and Ali House (P-Ward 8) were absent. Progressive councilor Jack Hanson resigned last week, leaving the council with 11 members until the mayor calls a special election.

The police recruitment and hiring coordinator will be in charge of attracting and retaining “a highly qualified and diverse police force,” the description says.

Councilors approved the civilian position during budget talks in June as part of a $1 million “rebuilding plan” for the department. The plan, which also includes hiring bonuses and other perks, is meant to restore police staffing from the current 64 officers to 85 over the next three years.

The police department has been shedding staff since a June 2020 council vote to reduce the size of the force by 30 percent through attrition. Officers have left much sooner than anticipated, creating what Mayor Miro Weinberger and acting Police Chief Jon Murad have called a public safety crisis. Protracted debates over police staffing finally led the council last year to set the staffing cap at 87.

The coordinator will also recruit nonpolice personnel, including community service officers, community support liaisons and dispatchers.

The latter group is stretched particularly thin: A plan to consolidate dispatch services countywide has sparked resignations from Burlington’s Emergency Communications Center. Budgeted for 12 staff, the office could have just four dispatchers by month's end, Seven Days reported earlier in September.
Also Monday, acting aviation director Nic Longo officially lost the “acting” part of his title when councilors unanimously approved his appointment as head of the Burlington International Airport.

Longo, who has worked at BTV for nearly a decade, has been running the airport since last summer when his predecessor, Gene Richards, was put on leave and then fired for mistreating employees. Weinberger announced Longo's appointment at a press conference last week.

Councilor Zoraya Hightower (P-Ward 1) applauded Longo for smoothing over relationships with employees.

"It takes a lot to create a cultural shift and to win the support of workers," Hightower said."It just seems like you've really done that, so interim job well done, and congratulations on the next step."

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