At least 20 Vermont cities and towns will decide on Town Meeting Day if they want to host stores selling cannabis, according to a tally from an advocate for regulated sales.
Taxed and regulated retail sales of recreational cannabis start next year, but no store can open without a host community’s approval, under a process known as “opting in.”
Middlebury is one of the towns considering whether to welcome a store selling cannabis for adults-only, off-site recreational consumption.
“Our view is that a well-regulated, well-run cannabis store will be an anchor for the downtown,” said Dave Silberman, an attorney who is urging a “yes” vote in Middlebury’s decision.
Silberman has long advocated for a taxed and regulated retail system for cannabis sales in Vermont. He predicts a shop in Middlebury would spark fresh economic activity.
“They’ll shop not only at the cannabis store, but they’ll go to the bookshop and the gift store, and the movie theater, and the arts venues and eat at the restaurants,” Silberman said in an interview with NECN Monday. “That has a multiplier effect. That helps make downtown Middlebury relevant and vital.”
Burlington, Winooski, Brattleboro, and Lyndon are also among the Vermont cities and towns asking voters on Town Meeting Day — which is March 2 — if they want to host a cannabis store.
Other communities can still bring the same question later on, advocates have noted.
If it seems like an October 2022 opening day for most new cannabis stores in Vermont is a long way off, it’s because city and town leaders want to give themselves a lot of time to work out their own local zoning rules.
Dr. Jill Rinehart, a pediatrician serving the Burlington area, opposed legislative efforts to allow retail sales of cannabis.
“Marijuana does not help our youth to succeed,” Rinehart argued.
Rinehart told NECN Monday she worries teens with developing brains may misinterpret a green light to retail stores as a sign that experimenting with cannabis is no big deal.
“In a state that has done so well to promote the wellness of children and families, this strikes me as very concerning—having a priority on marijuana that is clearly at odds with that mission,” Rinehart said.
A significant portion of the taxes raised through cannabis sales will fund prevention efforts and after-school programs, lawmakers said when the bill was making its way through the Vermont State House.
Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont, allowed the bill to become law last fall without his signature.
Meanwhile, according to a spokesman for Scott, the state is still working to set up the control board that will oversee the new industry here, from seed to sale.