It’s been legal to grow, share, and consume cannabis in Vermont since 2018, but the Green Mountain State enters the next era in less than a month when cannabis retail stores (aka ‘recreational dispensaries’) are scheduled to open on October 1st.
So, as you prepare to drive north for fall foliage and apple-picking and are considering adding legal cannabis products into your fall picnic basket, here are a few key things to know about buying legal cannabis in Vermont.
In keeping with its social equity policies, the Vermont Cannabis Control Board (CCB) has prioritized licensing the smallest cultivators (“Tier one” cultivators are defined as those with less than 1000 sqft or 125 total plants) and there are already over 100 licensed outdoor and mixed-use growers.
Instead of seeing the shelves stocked with the in-house brand and only a few different strain options, Vermont dispensaries will feature a larger number of small farms carrying different products and varieties. As the state licensed outdoor growers first, the first few months will be almost exclusively sungrown (outdoor-grown) cannabis from those small growers, meaning you’ll get an early chance to figure out your favorite Vermont farms and outdoor growers.
Vermont dispensaries will be able to display cannabis on the counter, “deli-style”, where shoppers will be able to smell different types of THC. Being able to see and smell before you buy is a no-brainer, but many US states still prohibit any actual cannabis from being displayed or shown.
Scott Sparks is the owner of several Brattleboro-based cannabis businesses, including the Vermont Grow Barn, Vermont Hempicurean, and the Vermont Bud Barn, the latter of which he hopes will be licensed as one of the first cannabis retail stores in Vermont in the upcoming weeks.
"What could be more Vermont than walking into an old red barn built in 1870, catching a whiff of old barn board, mixed with the aroma of cured flower, and getting to see and sniff individual containers of bud to get the juices flowing??
The mind starts racing with all the possibilities and the excitement builds with the choices before you. It's too difficult to choose so you come home with more than you anticipated but are "dank" glad you did."
Many Vermont cannabis entrepreneurs have been waiting and planning to sell cannabis over-the-counter for five-plus years, and there’s a long list of applicants who have been lining up.
In fact, to accommodate the 50+ retail applicants already in line and meet their October 1 deadline, the state regulators opened up the application process a full month earlier than originally scheduled and are actively processing applications for retail stores.
This means that instead of waiting in line for hours at one or two locations in Burlington or Stowe, visitors will have multiple options for dispensaries to visit on the drive to, from, and within their travel destination.
Just like the growers, expect a majority of Vermont’s retail cannabis shops to be small, independently-owned and operated businesses.
That competition doesn’t mean Vermont cannabis will be cheap: each of those shops all face expensive taxes resulting from the prohibition of cannabis at the national level. At the state level, customers will pay the six percent sales tax, a fourteen percent excise tax, and an additional one percent sales tax in certain municipalities for a cumulative 20-21% tax rate at the register.
While the Vermont legislature is ultimately responsible for approving any proposed new licenses, the Cannabis Control Board body that regulates cannabis in Vermont has expressed interest in adding both cannabis delivery and cannabis event licenses in the future.
For this season, there also won’t be any lounges or other public consumption, meaning you’re likely limited to lighting up at private residences and the great outdoors. Hiking areas and resorts will be officially off-limits for smoking in particular, but above all, just remember Smokey the Bear if you’re considering lighting up legally in Vermont.
Following a huge bounceback summer season, Vermont is expecting an even busier fall season, so if leaf-peeping – cannabis or otherwise – is in your future, don’t space out and start planning your Vermont trip soon!