Town meeting day will soon be here and some towns will be voting on retail cannabis sales as outlined in Act 164 – giving town residents the power to decide if they want their town to opt in to retail cannabis. Towns may also have an additional ballot question related to integrated cannabis licenses for retail sale for adult use in their town.
According to Act 164, all other cannabis licensees besides retail would be permitted in all towns based on state level permits (such as cultivator, wholesale, product manufacture, testing labs, etc). As far as our current understanding of the law, this means that towns do not have say on these licenses, unless legislation changes.
The additional article related to integrated licenses is likely not to impact Lamoille Valley towns at this time, but may in the future. Under Act 164 there are 5 available integrated licenses which are available to the current 5 medical cannabis dispensaries in the state. There are currently no medical dispensaries in the Lamoille Valley. This “integration” means they can do everything from cultivator to sale/retail under one license. This is why some towns will have a separate ballot question for these licenses, because it includes a retail component that may become available at some unnamed future date.
Your town or a neighboring town will be voting on this issue on Town Meeting Day or considering a future vote. You may be wondering why a town might want to wait and how you can gather information to be informed? There are still a lot of unknowns and concerns related to Act 164 retail cannabis sales. Some of these concerns may be sorted out with clarifying legislation this spring. Healthy Lamoille Valley is working to follow these updates and help towns identify and address concerns related to public health and youth substance prevention as impacted by retail cannabis. We are a go-to source for updated information. To learn more or be involved please contact Alison Link Healthy Lamoille Valley’s Policy and Community Outreach Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read on for more information
There are many reasons for towns to take their time before voting on whether to opt in.
1. Towns that vote now to opt in don’t really know what they are voting on. The statewide Cannabis Control Board (CCB) is at least two months behind schedule. The CCB is responsible for making recommendations to the General Assembly on many issues that will impact towns that opt in, such as licensing standards and advertising including:
- Oversight and inspection requirements.
- Whether cannabis/cannabis products should have minimum amount of cannabidiol (CBD) to aid in prevention of cannabis-induced psychosis.
- Whether customers can order online for pickup and whether stores can deliver to customers.
- Section 863 of the law is confusing and has been the subject of conflicting legal opinions by town attorneys across the state. At issue is the applicability of existing and future zoning, as well as signage and public nuisance ordinances. Consensus is growing that without a legislative fix, it will likely have to be resolved by the courts. However, drafters of the legislation have confirmed via email that they intended for zoning to apply.
2. There is no reason to rush to vote. Retail Licenses are not scheduled to start being issued until October 2022.
3. Your town can vote when it’s ready. Opt in can happen by Australian ballot at town meeting 2021, 2022, or by special meeting.
4. Voting “no” now doesn’t close the door. Towns that vote down opt in this year can reconsider at a future meeting when there is more certainty on what the rules will be for retail cannabis in our towns.
Additionally, we recently received further clarifying review of Act 164 from James A. Dumont, Esq. of Bristol, VT, an independent lawyer.
“Your community is going to vote soon on whether or not to allow retail marijuana sales. A new state law allows this — but you may not know that under that new state law, once a community votes “yes” and a marijuana retailer sets up shop, that retailer can continue to sell marijuana in your community forever. If the community finds out this was a bad decision, because of the public health effects or anything else, the community can vote to change its mind — but not for any retailer already in business. They get to continue forever. The statute needs to change. That’s one reason to hold off for now.”
Action steps you can take:
1.Be informed and help others be informed! If you are voting or your town is considering a vote, make sure you are fully informed! Mt. Ascutney Prevention Partnership recently held an Act 164 info session that gives a complete overview (including state and local tax revenue and where the money goes), you can view it here . This is a very thorough presentation.
2.Work with your town’s leaders to create a community study workgroup. This workgroup would look at the impacts of retail cannabis on your town. This group can identify key stakeholders – getting their questions and concerns, look at local data, and identify potential municipal infrastructure needs. A workgroup will allow a town to be strategic if voters choose to opt-in to retail sales.
3. Help set up a Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) for your town. A CCC would be similar to current alcohol/liquor license control boards in a town that can issue (suspend or revoke) local control licenses. Local licenses are separate from state licenses based on the town’s ability to regulate based on town wishes. A town’s CCC would address topics like the following:
- Issue local control licenses (beyond what the CCB decides).
- Decide whether to add conditions to retail cannabis licenses through a bylaw adopted pursuant to 24 V.S.A. § 4414, or ordinances regulating signs or public nuisances adopted pursuant to 24 V.S.A. § 2291 (in the absence of a local CCC, existing zoning and ordinances still apply to retail cannabis).
- Determine whether to suspend or revoke a local control license if license conditions are violated.
- Administer rules furnished to them by the state Cannabis Control Board.
4. Download and share this ACT 164 Infographic, especially if your town is voting this Town Meeting Day.
5. Be informed on the impacts of youth cannabis use. This UVM Pediatric Grand Rounds that was recorded on February 3rd, is a great starting place and can be viewed here. The Burlington Partnership for a Healthy Community recently published some excellent information on cannabis and youth, you can view it here.
6. Follow legislative actions and be in contact with your local legislators:
- Section 863 could be clarified in this legislative session, notify your local representative!
- Inquire about H164 which would allow towns local control of marijuana grows and factories – an item which the current law doesn’t include.
- S25 is being proposed in the Senate. This legislation seeks to clarify some components of Act 164.