Vermont has started taking prequalification applications from potential marijuana growers, retailers, product manufacturers and others as it prepares for a retail cannabis market to open this fall.
As of midday on Tuesday, 427 had applied for prequalification, including 66 potential retailers, according to James Pepper, chair of the state’s Cannabis Control Board. The application process for licenses starts later, opening first for small growers and testing facilities on Friday, all cultivators on May 1, product manufacturers and wholesalers on July 1, and finally for retailers on Sept. 1, according to the board’s website.
Republican Gov. Phil Scott on Friday also signed a bill into law that establishes fees for cannabis retailers and cultivators.
Vermont is among 18 states and Washington D.C. that have legalized cannabis for adults 21 and older, according to the Marijuana Policy Project. Currently, twelve states have retail cannabis sales for adults, the project said.
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But Pepper cautioned that as in other states it will take time for Vermont to develop its supply chain including cannabis product manufacturers and testing facilities.
The prequalification process involves checking for criminal histories, as well as civil and potential administrative law adjudications, Pepper said. Since the prequalification process was announced, many financial institutions and insurers do not want to talk to anyone who is not prequalified, he said.
“It’s also giving us an early picture of the market,” Pepper said.
Pepper said the board will try to prioritize small growers who will be among the first to apply for licenses starting Friday. The board plans to start approving prequalification applications at its meeting on Monday, he said.
Communities decide if they want to have retail marijuana operations within their borders. On Town Meeting Day in March, more than 25 approved such measures. That’s on top of more than 33 Vermont municipalities that already had approved retail marijuana operations before Town Meeting Day, according to the Vermont League of Cities and Towns.
In New England, the first marijuana stores opened in Massachusetts in November 2018, followed by Maine in October of 2020.