Vermonters Celebrate the First Day of Legal Cannabis Sales | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Vermonters Celebrate the First Day of Legal Cannabis Sales

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Published October 1, 2022 at 3:42 p.m.
Updated November 15, 2022 at 7:22 p.m.

  • Sasha Goldstein ©️ Seven Days
  • Caesar Wright
Caesar Wright strode out of FLORA Cannabis on Saturday morning and lifted his arms like a victorious boxer before a cheering crowd.

After driving for 90 minutes from Morrisville, then waiting two hours more, Wright made the inaugural purchase of legal weed at the Middlebury retailer, one of three stores to open on the first day of Vermont’s adult-use cannabis market. He dropped $105 on containers filled with "Diesel Dosi" and "Ice Cream Cake" after sniffing samples of the strains on a sleek display counter.

"I couldn't not be part of history," said Wright, who rocked a backwards baseball cap emblazoned with a smiley face and the words "Chill Mode."

While Wright was the first person to buy legal pot in Middlebury, he wasn't the first in Vermont. That honor went to Bryan Menard, who got in line around 6 a.m. Saturday outside of Ceres Collaborative in downtown Burlington. Once the store opened — four hours later — Menard bought some "Candy Jack" and "Kush Cake" cannabis flower, for which he paid $115.90 in cash.

"Green for green," he joked at the register, counting out six $20 bills.

A third store, Mountain Girl Cannabis in Rutland, also opened its doors on Saturday morning.
Dave Silberman outside his cannabis shop - SASHA GOLDSTEIN
  • Sasha Goldstein
  • Dave Silberman outside his cannabis shop
Back in Middlebury, the scene was orderly and had a political air. FLORA co-owner Dave Silberman, an attorney, has been an outspoken cannabis advocate in the Statehouse for several years, and he invited local and state officials who had paved the way for legal weed in Vermont. Some stood on the porch of the Park Street business as Silberman gave a speech and his business partner, Mike Sims, cut a red ribbon with oversized scissors.

The attendance of state officials, Silberman told the 60 or so people waiting outside, signified that pot is "normal."

"The days of cannabis being sold in the shadows are over," he declared. "Welcome to a new era!"
The line outside FLORA Cannabis - SASHA GOLDSTEIN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Sasha Goldstein ©️ Seven Days
  • The line outside FLORA Cannabis
Rep. Sarah Copeland Hanzas (D-Bradford) helped shepherd the 2020 legalization measure through as chair of the House Government Operations Committee and is now the Democratic nominee for Vermont Secretary of State. She walked out of the shop with a cannabis grinder and a sweatshirt with the FLORA logo.

"I'm growing my own weed plant this year, so I really don't need to buy any flower," Copeland Hanzas said.

"It's really exciting to see this day finally here after so many years of working to bring cannabis out of the prohibition era and into a legal, regulated market," she added.

Also in attendance were Sen. Ruth Hardy (D-Addison), Rep. Amy Sheldon (D-Middlebury) and Rep. Robin Scheu (D-Middlebury).

Brenda Siegel, the Democratic nominee for Vermont governor, shook hands with those waiting in line and got a look inside the shop.
Diane Sullivan (left) of Seven Days interviewing gubernatorial nominee Brenda Siegel - SASHA GOLDSTEIN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Sasha Goldstein ©️ Seven Days
  • Diane Sullivan (left) of Seven Days interviewing gubernatorial nominee Brenda Siegel
Alyson Eastman, a former legislator who serves as deputy secretary of the Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets, walked out with a FLORA hat, T-shirt and some cannabis flower. The Orwell resident recalled how lawmakers debated whether allowing people to grow their own weed at home, which has been legal since 2018, would stunt the tax-and-regulated cannabis market.

"And I think the line here proves a new message to us today," she said. "I'm one of those that likes to see the moment and think back of where we've been and how far Vermont's willing to come."

FLORA staff ushered a handful of customers inside at a time, escorting them into a small lounge where the cannabis menu was displayed on a TV. They then walked into an adjacent room where samples were arranged in clear jars along the "flower bar," with openings that allowed customers to take a whiff. Only cannabis flower and pre-rolled joints were on sale, though Silberman said he hopes to have edibles and other products in the coming weeks.
Caesar Wright examining the product - DEREK BROUWER ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Derek Brouwer ©️ Seven Days
  • Caesar Wright examining the product
Some in Middlebury had been a bit wary of allowing cannabis shops to open in the town's quaint downtown.

“There was some concern that it would take over,” selectboard member Andy Hooper said.

Standing outside of FLORA on Saturday, Hooper said he didn’t share those concerns. He doesn't expect Middlebury to become a weed retail magnet, noting that nearby towns have also voted to allow shops to open. He’s glad to see the industry have a presence.

“I’m thrilled to have a new business in town," he said.

With Vermont-grown weed still in short supply, the trio of retailers that received state licenses in time for the October 1 opening had somewhat limited offerings.

Ceres Collaborative sold 10 varieties of flower, priced between $45 and $50 for 3.5 grams, along with packages of gummies and $14 pre-rolled joints. None of the products were sitting on shelves; instead, iPad-wielding Ceres employees took orders from customers, who perused the offerings through glass display cases.

"Would you like something relaxing or uplifting?" one salesperson asked Don Maley of South Burlington. "Uplifting, I think," the 73-year-old replied. He ultimately purchased some sativa flower and a new cartridge for his vape pen.

"This is a great day!" Maley exclaimed in the checkout line, surveying the line of customers outside that snaked through a nearby alley and around the back of the store. It was his first time legally purchasing weed.

Vergennes resident Megan Jurnak walked out of FLORA with some flower for her and her partner, plus a pre-rolled joint she planned to give to her parents.

"So they can have a taste of early legal Vermont weed, as well," she explained.

Next on Jurnak's weekend to-do? Go home and have a smoke.

“I’m going to Disneyland,” she quipped.

Correction, October 2, 2022: A previous version of this story misidentified Mike Sims.