Retail Cannabis and Act 164
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- Information page for municipal leaders
- Cannabis and Your Town (quick at a glance resource)
- Impacts of Cannabis Retail Market
High-potency Cannabis in Vermont: This video shares information about the most current science we know about cannabis with THC (marijuana) and the impacts of commercialized cannabis products on our state.
Municipalities and residents have been given a great responsibility to set public health policy. Policy affects everyone in a community, regardless of individual opinions and viewpoints and can have long and lasting implications for a community. This decision should not be taken lightly. Many thanks to all of our coalition partners across the state who contributed to this effort.
The purpose of sharing this information is not to restrict municipalities in fostering economic opportunities through establishments that produce, serve, distribute, or sell these products but to support voters in being informed and to provide and enhance substance use prevention and early intervention for Vermont youth, leading to reductions in substance misuse across all ages.
The words we use:
- We work towards using the term “cannabis” and not “marijuana” because of equity considerations. Vermont House Bill S.54 (retail sales legislation) is changing “marijuana” for “cannabis” in Vermont Statutes. There are times when marijuana is used, based on the original wording in the source we are quoting. More info here.
- We use the term “retail cannabis” or “adult-use cannabis” and not “recreational cannabis”, since “recreation” has an association, especially for our youth, of being positive and desired.
- Dispensary is a term used for where to get medical cannabis and not a retail establishment.
How we’re looking at this issue from a prevention framework:
Science show us that young people who use alcohol, marijuana, tobacco and other substances are more likely to develop substance dependency in their lifetime than those who delay use until after age 21 or later. 40% of young people who begin using before the age of 15 will develop a substance dependency issue while the risk drops to 7% when use occurs after age 21.
In Lamoille County, 20% of youth report that they are using before the age of 13, and 26% of Lamoille County high school students report using marijuana in the last month. Recognizing that the adolescent years are one of the most critical for brain development, we come together as youth, parents, educators, health providers, and community members to reduce youth substance use in our communities, schools, and towns.
Our work at Healthy Lamoille Valley is based on identifying the risks that exist in our communities that contribute to young people using during this critical time in their brains development. We also focus our work on increasing the protective factors in our communities that help to prevent youth use.
One risk factor that our data assessments have shown is important to focus on in our communities is around community laws and norms that support substance use. The more that substances are available and the more that “use” is normalized in our communities, directly correlates to our youth using during that critical brain development time.
The retail cannabis conversation in Vermont as put forth in Act 164 is relevant to our work. We feel there is a way for towns hosting retail cannabis to balance the needs of adults who choose to access and use cannabis while also protecting the health of those who should not (children/youth) or choose not to access or use. This change in law will make cannabis more accessible and likely make use more normed in our communities. So how can we move forward with this new law in a way that we can protect our youth from any negative impact?
Act 164 Summarized:
- Legalizes sale / purchase / taxation of adult use cannabis with regulation and establishes a regulated retail market.
- Towns can vote to “Opt In” the retail sale of adult use cannabis and integrated licenses.
- It creates an independent commission within the executive branch — the Cannabis Control Board — to regulate and license an adult-use cannabis industry in VT and make recommendations to legislature (As of November 2021, there are decisions that have not yet been made by the CCB about how the law will impact local retail markets)
- Retail sales may begin October 2022
- Public consumption is illegal.
- 30% THC limit for Cannabis flower, 60% limit for concentrates
- All sales (6%) and excise tax revenue (14%) sent to the State. 30% of these taxes are currently earmarked for funding universal afterschool and prevention initiatives
- Only adults over 21 will be allowed entry, sale, and product usage.
For a full version go to: https://ccb.vermont.gov/sites/ccb/files/documents/ACT164%20As%20Enacted_1.pdf.
Towns get to vote for retail and integrated licenses (but are not required to). A company with an integrated license can grow it, sell it to other companies for retail sales, manufacture products (such as edibles), conduct testing (for their own cannabis or others), and sell it themselves in a retail store. The reason why integrated licenses require an opt-in vote by a town is because they include retail licenses.
Towns only have say in retail sales. All other licenses are issued and controlled at the state level.
The Cannabis Control Board is still in the process of developing rules and regulations for the cannabis retail market. Towns that vote now are voting without full knowledge of all the information and implications.
Act 164 Timeline:
- March 1, 2022: Final adoption of rules. RULEMAKING IS NOT FINAL!
- On or before May 1, 2022: Begin issuing licenses for small cultivators, integrated licensees, and testing labs; and Integrated licensees may begin selling cannabis and cannabis products to the public in those towns that have opted in.
- On or before Oct. 1, 2022: Begin issuing licenses for retailers; and retailers may begin selling cannabis and cannabis products to the public in those towns that have opted in.
The Cannabis Control Board (CCB) will establish regulations and administer compliance and enforcement. The CCB will oversee regulations for: Cultivators, Testing laboratories, Product manufacturers, Wholesalers, Retailers, Integrated licenses. Meetings continue for the Full Board and Sub-Committees. The meeting schedule and other information about the CCB can be found here. Act 164 established the CCB during the 2020 legislative session. It was subsequently amended by Act 62 in 2021.
Recent updates / current items up for consideration by the CCB:
Note: While the CCB is creating baseline rules/regulations, towns may be given local control to craft rules/regulations that best fit what they want for their communities.
- Making recommendations for tax and regulate structure, considering:
- Capping local license fees at $100
- Proposing to legislature a 1%-2% tax for towns opting in; currently NO tax revenue for towns that don’t have local options tax
- Focusing on policies that address social equity to overcome negative impacts of the war on drugs
- Set new “buffer zone” rule prohibiting retail store within 500 ft. from school – 1000’; towns will be allowed to choose their own (reduce or expand) up to 1000’
Once a town votes to opt in to a cannabis market, they can vote to opt out later (yet established retailers that began after the original opt in get to stay). If a town votes, municipalities may call another vote to be planned in the future to give the community the opportunity to weigh in again and potentially reverse the current vote (either direction). If an opt-In vote is reversed, existing retail operations are allowed to stay by “legacy rights”.
Currently, no Lamoille Valley communities will receive additional sales tax revenue. This is because there are no Lamoille Valley towns that currently have a local options tax in place (the local options tax is not the same as the meals and room tax and alcoholic beverage tax) . Based on the current law, if a retail store is opened in a Lamoille Valley town, it will not generate additional sales tax revenue for the municipality. If your town has a local options tax then the town would see local tax revenue. All sales (6%) and excise taxes (14%) are sent to the State. 30% of this tax revenue is set to be allocated to fund afterschool and prevention initiatives for youth.
While the CCB is creating baseline rules / regulations, towns will be given some local control to craft rules/regulations for their communities. A town may consider its current policies and options for local control at any point in time. For example, a town might consider creating a research work group or community survey to assess how residents and businesses to think about retail cannabis and what regulations would like to have in their town.
If a town votes to opt-in, a Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) could be established to create local regulations in alignment with state rule making (e.g. zoning, Local Cannabis Commission). A local CCC can give a towns say in who gets a retail license and under what conditions. However, these local rules cannot go against the rules created by the CCB.
- Create buffer for adult-only product sales near schools and other places kids gather
- Establish density outlets (“no more than 1 license per block or per 5,000 adult residents”)
- Develop signage for parks and other public places to educate the community that public use of cannabis is illegal
- Create signage to reinforce smoke, vape and tobacco free environments.
- Prohibit any adult-only advertising (content neutral) in locations accessed by kids and/or Limit/Eliminate Window/Sidewalk/Street view advertisements
- Require clear warnings and disclosures on labels and at stores – including information about the health risks of use
- Local options tax- Research that higher prices reduce youth use
- Collect data to help monitor and respond to impacts on kids and increases in use rates
The following local systems and services can be impacted by Cannabis Retail:
- Law enforcement
- Medical services
- Mental health services
- Solid waste management
- Water and electricity usage
- Energy systems
- Traffic impacts
- Ancillary businesses
- Aesthetics of our town
- Indirect revenue (grand list, tourism)
Here are some data resources for your consideration and discussion with others:
Emergency room attendances for cannabis-related medical conditions (acute adverse psychological effects, hyperemesis, and accidental poisoning of children) has increased http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2018-027432
(Colorado ER presentation: https://greenmountainaccess.tv/project/healthy-lamoille-valley-presents-cannabis-youth-notes-from-a-colorado-e-r/)
In the first 3 states that legalized, motor-vehicle crashes initially increased by a combined 6%, but later fell as a result of intervention and campaigns. (https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2019/11/18/548752.htm)
Adult use cannabis has increased. (http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2018-027432)
Youth use has not further increased with recreational cannabis laws, studies show increases occurred when medical marijuana laws were passed. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6348863)
Average potency of marijuana has increased (from 4% to 8.5% from 1990 – 2015, a 212% increase; now close to 20% in 2019) causing greater concerns for mental health conditions, anxiety, depression, and psychotic episodes. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6312155)
Vermont has the highest youth marijuana rate in the country. In 2018 VT ranked #1 for use in the past month for 12-17 year olds with 12.67% using (National Marijuana Initiative). “National data shows that more Vermonters (ages 12 and up) are using marijuana compared to the country overall. The number of Vermonters who try marijuana for the first time between the ages of 12 and 17 is also higher in our state than in the country overall.” (Vermont Department of Health, https://www.healthvermont.gov/alcohol-drug-abuse/alcohol-drugs/marijuana)
Local numbers are higher. In 2019 in Lamoille County, 8% of middle school students and 28% of high school students reported using marijuana in the last 30 days. This is higher than Vermont use rates which are 5% and 27% respectively.
Our local youth are using early in life: 2% of Lamoille County middle school students report first use before age 11. 8% of Lamoille County high school students report first use before age 13. Again these are higher than the VT averages which are 1% and 6% respectively. (Vermont Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 2019, https://www.healthvermont.gov/health-statistics-vital-records/population-health-surveys-data/youth-risk-behavior-survey-yrbs)
Why we are concerned about this is related to youth. Research says that about 1 in 10 people who use marijuana may become addicted/dependent — and 1 in 6 when use begins before age 18 (SAMHSA, https://www.samhsa.gov/marijuana-quiz). Increased access to marijuana and community norming of use, lowers perception of harm of adults and youth.
Find out more about youth impacts at: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/marijuana.
Here is a suggestion for what the warning label should look like based on recommendations from the Colorado Psychiatric Society:
WARNING: Cannabis with THC may cause:
1. Impaired driving
4. Suicide attempt or self-injurious behavior*
5. Uncontrollable vomiting
6. Harm to fetus/nursing baby
*This can occur in individuals with no previous history of psychosis or mental illness.
High Potency: Colorado Psychiatric Society is working on the issue of warning labeling for high potency THC in Colorado. When legalizing commercial cannabis In 2014 Colorado did not adequately warn or protect the public. To correct this they passed a new law in 2021 aimed at more appropriately regulating potency and labeling of cannabis with THC that passed almost unanimously in the House and Senate this year. Currently medical marijuana in Vermont has no THC limit and the VT cap of 60% THC is still a dangerously high concentration level with known side effects. The cannabis plant has been genetically modified over the years to increase potency; this is no longer the 2-3% of the past.
More data related to youth use related to advertising and outlet density. Exposure to marijuana advertisements was associated with higher odds of current marijuana use among adolescents. From National Monitoring the Future Survey of 12-17 yr olds (n=12,988) CONCLUSION: “Regulations that limit marijuana advertisements to adolescents and educational campaigns on harmfulness of illicit marijuana use are needed.” (https://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2017/17_0253.htm) Cannabis ads and store location influence youth marijuana use. Survey of 13-17 yr olds in WA (n=350). “Regular exposure to marijuana advertising on storefronts, billboards, retailer websites and other locations increased the likelihood of adolescents using marijuana.” (Youth’s Proximity to Marijuana Retailers and Advertisements: Factors Associated with Washington State Adolescents’ Intentions to Use Marijuana. Journal of Health Communication, 2020)
What topics related to cannabis do you wish you knew more about? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Public safety
- Health and mental health
- Cannabis use and youth impact
- Agricultural considerations
- Environmental considerations
- Details of Act 164/retail cannabis law
- Town regulations, ordinances, zoning, etc.
- Impact on local systems
- Act 164 tax revenue structure
- Cannabis: THC Vs CBD
- Medical vs retail cannabis
- Other (please specify)