Vermont Begins Selling Recreational Cannabis

Vermont Begins Selling Recreational Cannabis

Over the weekend, dispensaries in Vermont began selling recreational marijuana to adults 21 and older.



This past weekend, history was made in Vermont as three dispensaries, FLORA Cannabis, Mountain Girl Cannabis, and CeresMED, began selling recreational adult-use cannabis, according to CNBC.


In total, at least 70 Vermont municipalities have opted in to allow retail marijuana sales. Other hopeful companies across the state expect to receive their adult-use licenses in the coming weeks and months.


Before the new laws allowing for recreational sales, cannabis had already been legal for medical and personal use in the state. In October 2020, Gov. Phil Scott (R) allowed the legislation legalizing adult-use marijuana to become law without his signature.


Vermont is now the 15th state with legal cannabis sales to adults 21 and older, according to the Marijuana Policy Project. Four other states — Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island, and Virginia — and Washington, D.C., have legalized the recreational use of cannabis, but sales haven’t started there yet.


Karen O’Keefe, Director of State Policies at the Marijuana Policy Project, states, “For years, Vermonters have voiced their support for allowing adults 21 and older to purchase cannabis from regulated, tax-paying small businesses. Now, Vermont has legalized cannabis and is well on its way to establishing a well-regulated, equitable market. We are very grateful to our allies in the state for all of their efforts over the years in support of sensible cannabis policies.”


"For years, Vermonters have voiced their support for allowing adults 21 and older to purchase cannabis from regulated, tax-paying small businesses. Now, Vermont has legalized cannabis and is well on its way to establishing a well-regulated, equitable market. We are very grateful to our allies in the state for all of their efforts over the years in support of sensible cannabis policies.”

- Karen O’Keefe, Director of State Policies at the Marijuana Policy Project


What makes Vermont’s approach unique is its prioritization of licensing for what it calls “social equity applicants.” As part of its rollout, the Vermont Cannabis Control Board made reviewing and waiving licensing fees a priority for such candidates. These applicants are primarily from African American and Latino communities or groups historically that cannabis laws have unduly impacted. In addition, many have been or had a family member incarcerated for marijuana-related offenses.


The Board has already approved more than 30 such social equity applicants, most of them being growers. Mountain Girl Cannabis, owned by Ana and Josh MacDuff, is one of the first retailers to receive a license.


“For us, it was really important to be first in Vermont, or one of the first,” said Ana MacDuff, who is of Latina heritage.


"For us, it was really important to be first in Vermont, or one of the first."

- Ana MacDuff, Mountain Girl Cannabis


However, some growers have been left frustrated by the timeline. The Cannabis Control Board was tasked with forming regulations and reviewing applicants simultaneously. As a result, many growers anticipated receiving their licenses in May but did not.


As Bernardo Antonio, Education Director for the Vermont Growers Association, a trade group, says, “Outdoor cultivators for this year have gone all year waiting for licenses with the question of whether they should plant or not because they’re trying to make this their business and they can’t really go 16 months without earning. So right now, there are a lot of outdoor cultivators still waiting for licensing. I mean, the season’s over for them.”


"Outdoor cultivators for this year have gone all year waiting for licenses with the question of whether they should plant or not because they’re trying to make this their business and they can’t really go 16 months without earning. So right now, there are a lot of outdoor cultivators still waiting for licensing. I mean, the season’s over for them.”

- Bernardo Antonio, Education Dir. for the Vermont Growers Association


State officials empathize with the growers anxiously waiting for their licenses. Still, they contend that the Board has achieved a lot considering the short time it has been around and its small initial staff size.


As James Pepper, Chair of the Vermont Cannabis Control Board, shares, “What we’re focused on at the Board is consumer safety and public safety, and honestly, a slow rollout is not the worst thing in the world. I mean, in five years, no one’s going to care. But they will care if there’s a rash of burglaries or if there was a product that was making people sick.”


"What we’re focused on at the Board is consumer safety and public safety, and honestly, a slow rollout is not the worst thing in the world. I mean, in five years, no one’s going to care. But they will care if there’s a rash of burglaries or if there was a product that was making people sick.”

- James Pepper, Chair of the Vermont Cannabis Control Board


Despite these short-term systemic hiccups, the overall takeaway from the opening weekend of recreational cannabis sales in Vermont is one of accomplishment and satisfaction for a state with a long history of being “green.” After all, when you’re known as the Green Mountain State, it only makes sense you should be one of the first to allow adult-use marijuana sales in the country founded on personal liberty and freedom of choice.