Vermont launched its recreational cannabis industry this month with festive store openings. From her downtown Burlington office, Catherine Burke, an attorney with Gravel and Shea who works with cannabis companies, said she could see “people lining up for hours ahead of opening time,” at the nearby CeresMed dispensary.
Growing, sharing, and consuming small amounts of cannabis has been legal in Vermont since 2018. Now, entrepreneurs can apply for six business license types – as cannabis cultivators, manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers, testing laboratories, or for integrated licenses. The state estimates taxable cannabis retail will reach $225M per year in 2025, garnering $45M in tax revenue.
Cannabis industry companies need to do significantly more than a typical business to open their doors, said Burke. They need to show they have a place to operate, are on their way to getting banking and insurance, and detail how they plan to train employees, among other tasks. These can all come with extra restrictions and not all landlords, insurance companies and banks want to work with the industry she said. Cannabis businesses also need to learn and adopt the statewide seed to sale tracking system and get each employee licensed to work in the industry, including background checks.
Sometimes cannabis companies need to pay their taxes in cash.
For farmers adding cannabis to their crop list, a critical step is to legally separate their cannabis and non-cannabis businesses because otherwise, their federal funding could be at risk. Cannabis is still illegal at the federal level, so farmers who participate in federal programs for crop insurance, disaster assistance, conservation or other activities and plan to join the industry, could find that funding threatened.
One of the extra tasks for Trevor Schell, chief executive of X-Tract a small St. Albans-based company that extracts cannabis oils used to fill vape cartridges and make edibles, is to make sure the cannabis coming into his facility has been properly grown, harvested, dried and tested according to the new state regulation. “All the boxes need to be checked before we touch it,” he said. The company also makes pre-rolls from cannabis flower.
“We’ve all been working hard and it’s exciting to see this day arrive,” he said,
Vermont cities and towns are allowed to require their own permitting in addition to state permits, and that adds to a start-up’s work load. Of about 225 geographic entities in Vermont about 10 percent have chosen to do so said Burke.