Vermont's Cannabis Growers Are Ready — But Their Permits Aren't | Business | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Vermont's Cannabis Growers Are Ready — But Their Permits Aren't

By

LUKE EASTMAN
  • Luke Eastman
Vermont's Cannabis Control Board acknowledged on Monday that it will not meet a state mandated deadline of May 1 to issue licenses to small-scale weed growers.

The news comes as a blow to cultivators who are anxiously awaiting state approval so they can raise crops in time to have product available when the market fully opens in October. Some have applied to grow indoors, others outdoors and some a mix of both.

According to data from the board, 83 small growers have submitted applications, but only two are currently under review. Those two are among 25 "social equity applicants" who represent groups disadvantaged by the country's war on drugs and are now designated for priority licensing review — and breaks on fees — by Vermont.



"We've gotten a lot of messages saying, 'Hey, my plants need to be in the ground ASAP,' and we completely understand," Kyle Harris, one of the three board members, said at a meeting on Monday. "That is not lost on us." Harris said some frustrated applicants have called into the office and directed vulgar language at staff, which he called unacceptable.

"I know folks are under a lot of stress and anxiety, have a lot riding on these licenses; we totally get that," he said. "But there's just no room to be rude ... 
I just want to make sure everybody understands that they're working as hard as they possibly can."
James Pepper, the board chair, said the legislature has approved a bill that will allow the board to hire more staff, which should help speed up the review process. He also said the board would open the application window for bigger growers now, which is ahead of schedule, in an attempt to smooth things out.

The delays weren't the only bad news the board delivered on Monday. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has rejected the state's request to conduct background checks for all applicants, meaning the board will have to bring on a third-party company to do them. The checks, required of  applicants and all of those with a controlling interest in a cannabis business, cost $475 each.

"This process is not ideal, it's less efficient, and there's an additional cost to the licensee, but it’s kind of the default position we’re in right now," Pepper said.

Ivan Pudan, co-owner of Snowbird Botanicals in Barnet, asked the board about the cost during the public comment period of its meeting.

"I'm a social equity applicant with my wife, and $1,000 for background checks kind of defeats the purpose of applying for a social-equity type of assistance, doesn't it?" he inquired.

The board also revealed on Monday that it has not received any applications for an "integrated" license, which is available only to the three out-of-state owners of Vermont's medical cannabis dispensaries. Under state law, holders of an integrated license are allowed to start selling on the adult-use retail market on May 1 — five months before other retailers, who will be allowed to open October 1.

But with no applicants and the delays in licensing, it's unclear when the first legal weed sales will take place in Vermont.