MONTPELIER, Vt. (WFFF) — Gov. Phil Scott will allow Vermont’s commercial cannabis bill to go into law without his signature. Scott said Wednesday that the legislature needs to continue to address his concerns, including including education and prevention and highway safety. The governor also outlined concerns about communities that want to prohibit retail cannabis businesses and racial inequality in the legal market.
“The Legislature needs to strengthen education and prevention – including banning marketing that appeals in any way to our kids,” Scott said. “Otherwise they are failing to learn the lessons of the public health epidemic caused by tobacco and alcohol.”
It’s been legal to possess and cultivate a small amount of marijuana in Vermont since 2018, but buying and selling it was prohibited. Laura Subin, Director of Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana says it’s an important step toward criminal justice reform.
“We need to move forward in a system that has regulated sales, where products are tested for purity and potency and move forward into a more responsible system,” said Subin.
The bill places a 14% sales tax on top of the existing 6% state sales tax, which Vermont’s Legislative Joint Fiscal Office says would generate around $7 million in tax revenue. But many small farmers say they were left out of the conversation and opposed the bill.
“This bill puts several significant barriers between farmers and cultivators being able to equitably participate in this market – declaring that the product itself and its cultivation will not be considered agriculture and allowing no direct market access for cultivators,” said Graham Unangst-Rufenacht with Rural Vermont. “Gov. Scott, please veto this bill so that we can create the just and equitable regulations and market we all want to see,”
A Cannabis Control Board will regukate Vermont’s new market. Medical dispensaries can be licensed as soon as May 2022, while recreational dispensaries will need to wait until October 2022.
Cities and towns must authorize businesses before retail establishments open. The bill also dedicates $10 million a year to education and prevention efforts. The sales and use tax would fund a grant program to expand after-school and summer learning programs.