On the cusp of the first retail stores opening in Vermont, the Cannabis Control Board issued 13 new licenses Wednesday. The new licensees included 10 growers, two manufacturers and one retail store, Bud Barn in Brattleboro.
Scott Sparks, owner of Bud Barn, said he was “very excited” about getting the license.
“It’s been a long time coming, and really glad that that major hurdle is done,” Sparks said.
That brings to four the number of retail operations licensed to open Oct. 1. The others are Mountain Girl Cannabis in Rutland, FLORA in Middlebury and CeresMed in Burlington, which also operates medical cannabis dispensaries in South Burlington, Brattleboro and Middlebury.
Ana and James MacDuff, owners of Mountain Girl Cannabis, have told VTDigger that they plan to open Oct. 1, as has Dave Silberman, co-owner of FLORA.
Sparks said he is holding off on opening his store in Brattleboro.
“Hopefully, in a few weeks, I’ll be open,” Sparks said. “I just have to jump through a few more hoops.”
Sparks said his goal is to open by Oct. 17, but he called that “a moving target”.
First, he said, the 12 employees he has hired have to go through an FBI background and fingerprint check. Sparks then has to email the documentation to the Cannabis Control Board, which must issue the employee IDs.
“So I’m not sure how many weeks that will all take,” Sparks said.
He said he also has to buy the product, noting that he has “a lot” of growers lined up.
James Pepper, chair of the Cannabis Control Board, said at Wednesday’s meeting that the process of setting up regulations and getting an entire market going by October has been like “building a parachute while in the middle of a freefall.”
Pepper acknowledged that there is frustration with the pace of issuing licenses. He recognized that applicants have invested “a lot” of time and money into their recreational cannabis businesses.
Pepper ascribed some of the slow pace in issuing licenses to the fact that Vermont designed its rules to allow small operators to take advantage of the market, which meant many licenses for small growers.
Out of the 222 growers’ licenses issued so far, Pepper said, 179 are for small growers, and only five are for large growers.
“This market belongs to small growers in a way that no other state does,” Pepper said.
Pepper warned that the pace at which the board is issuing licenses, more than 200 licenses in five months, cannot be kept up with present staffing. He said the board is directing staff to move at a more sustainable pace from now on, and suspected the number of approvals of licenses each week would slow down.
When the board meets again next Wednesday, the market will be open.
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