Gotta Love Ludlow group promotes education for retail cannabis vote

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The upcoming informational meeting and vote to decide whether Ludlow will allow a retail cannabis dispensary has been led by Andi Goldman and Meredith Milliken, the duo behind Gotta Love Ludlow, whose mission is to educate residents about cannabis for health and wellness as well as financial benefits for the town of Ludlow.

Their presentation to the Ludlow Selectboard Tuesday, Sept. 14 prompted the board to schedule the upcoming informational meeting Monday, Nov. 1 with a vote by Australian ballot to follow Tuesday, Nov. 2.

Goldman and Milliken were Ludlow second-homeowners for the last 18 years and are now full-time residents; their tagline “Knowledge is Power” is at the forefront of their message. Goldman, a former corporate and securities lawyer and an investment manager, has over seven years of legal cannabis industry experience. Milliken, who is vegan and pro-organic, is also a former competitive swimmer and trainer and is drawn to the legal cannabis forefront from the health and wellness side.

Although they hope to be granted a license for an adult-use cannabis dispensary next year, they realize that is not a guarantee. This vote is simply a first step in the process.

According to Act 164, Vermont towns or cities must vote by ballot to allow cannabis retailers to operate in their town. If a town decides to not hold a vote or do nothing, that town would be ineligible for a state-licensed dispensary. Town approval does not mean a retailer will open in that town, and local ordinances and permitting will still apply. Vermont will distribute cannabis dispensary licenses in October of 2022; the state will also look at a geographic distribution when awarding licenses.

Goldman and Milliken don’t want Ludlow to miss out on that opportunity.

“Let’s bring health and wellness into the town,” Goldman said. “Let’s benefit from it and regulate it.”

In addition to what they feel are the health benefits of cannabis, they have spelled out the other benefits to the town, including providing a living wage and benefits to over 30 employees; increased consumer traffic for the town’s businesses; attracting new businesses; direct impact fees to the town which could be written into a town ordinance; yearly licensing and renewal fees; mandated voluntary donations or the addition of a 1 percent local optional tax; and delivering a safer cannabis product since all legal retail cannabis must be tested for quality, purity, and potency by Vermont State Law.

“If it’s already happening, why not make it safer?” Goldman said.

They also want to emphasize that a dispensary is different than a headshop. According to Goldman, dispensaries are often designed like Apple stores: sleek and bright with a minimalist aesthetic. Visitors – who must show proof of being 21 years old or have a Vermont medical marijuana card – would be greeted upon entry and guided through the process, starting with offering a consultation on what product may work best for the desired outcome, or pointing them to a quicker line if they know what they want. “Budtenders” would be trained extensively by law and by intended practice. They also intend to work with a local technical school to establish training and educational programs. “It’s first about education and awareness,” Goldman said. (Photo By: Sharron Huntley/The Vermant Journal)

Location of the dispensary is also being carefully considered and would be located on the outskirts of town, not in the village. Parking and public safety would be paramount and would not be near schools. The building would also have its own security systems and security personnel.

During the upcoming informational meeting, both Goldman and Milliken hope to answer as many questions as possible.

The format of the meeting will follow Robert’s Rules with moderator George Thomson officiating in the process. The amount of time each participant would speak and other structural details, including if Gotta Love Ludlow or other groups can present at the beginning, is still a work in progress, according to Ludlow Municipal Manager Scott Murphy. He is working with the Planning Commission and the moderator to finalize those details.

Murphy expects that residents on both sides of the issue will be in attendance. Ludlow Police and Ambulance representatives will also be at the meeting to provide their input. Murphy also said that he is neither opposed nor in favor of the measure but added that the issue is being looked at in many other towns who are grappling with the same subject. He also expressed skepticism on how much the town would actually garner in additional fees.

“My role is to coordinate the meeting and make sure everyone has an opportunity to speak,” Murphy said.

Even if the vote doesn’t result in approval by the town, both Goldman and Milliken agree that as long as they are able to educate residents about legal cannabis and about their options, it will be a win.

Goldman has had first-hand experience with how legal cannabis has provided a boon for towns in Colorado and California and hopes Ludlow will see the same type of benefits. “We love this town. We’re passionate about this town… We want Ludlow to be a part of this,” Goldman said.

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