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Recreational Pot Sales Kick Off in Vermont

Vermont’s recreational marijuana market officially began on Saturday, when three stores opened their doors for customers in the three towns.

The three retailers to open this weekend were FLORA Cannabis in Middlebury, Mountain Girl Cannabis in Rutland and CeresMED in Burlington, according to the Associated Press, which noted that a “fourth business has been licensed to sell recreational pot but isn’t ready to do so yet.”

The Burlington Free Press reported on the grand opening at Ceres in Burlington, where the newspaper said that “a line of a couple hundred people stretching from the storefront around the corner and down an alley” had gathered for the occasion.

It would be easy to assume that marijuana recreational sales had already begun in Green Mountain State. The state legalized adult possession of cannabis in 2018 and has since allowed for cultivation. According to The, the state has legalized medical marijuana since 2004. Free Press, Ceres “has been in business for about a decade catering to medical-marijuana customers, and that established infrastructure helped the company get going smoothly.”

However, the Republican governor signed the 2018 law. Phil Scott did not create a regulatory framework to allow adult-use cannabis markets, leaving Vermont as an outsider in the legalization process.

Two years later, in 2020 the legislature approved a bill to regulate marijuana.

“Ten of the eleven states that have legalized adult-use marijuana possession have also wisely regulated the retail cannabis market; until today, Vermont had been the sole exception,” NORML State Policies Coordinator Carly Wolf said at the time.

With Saturday’s openings in Middlebury, Rutland and Burlington, Vermont now becomes the 15th state with legal adult-use cannabis sales.

In signing the bill back in 2020, Scott said that the bill had been “a top priority for the majority in the Legislature for four years, but their work is not complete.”

“They must ensure equity in this new policy and prevent their priority from becoming a public health problem for current and future generations,” Scott said in his signing statement. “For these reasons, I am allowing this bill to become law without my signature.”

According to the Associated Press, the state’s Cannabis Control Board “prioritized review and waived licensing fees for social equity applicants,” such as “[applicants who are] Black or Hispanic, or from communities that historically have been disproportionately affected by cannabis being outlawed or who have been or had a family member who has been incarcerated for a cannabis-related offense.”

Similar social equity provisions have been adopted by other states who have established a marijuana-regulated market. New York will soon allow recreational cannabis sales. The first wave of licensing for dispensaries in New York is available to those who have been previously convicted.

The Associated Press reports that “more than 30 social equity applicants, mostly growers, have been approved.”

When he signed the bill that established Vermont’s new cannabis market, Scott noted that it “requires cities and towns to authorize these businesses before retail establishments may open,” and “ensures local zoning applies to cannabis cultivation and production.”

He also said that the law “dedicates 30% of the excise tax, up to $10 million per year, to education and prevention efforts,” and that “the sales and use tax on cannabis would fund a grant program to expand afterschool and summer learning programs.”

Scott said at the time that the state’s ensuing budget “includes language I proposed to move toward a universal afterschool network, which is based on a successful model from Iceland and is focused on preventing drug use and improving academic and social outcomes.”