Vermont’s Cannabis industry looks ahead after a strong first year
Cannabis is a *budding* industry in the Green Mountain State, bringing in just under $10 million in new revenue to the state so far.
Nearly a year in, there are 59 dispensaries in the state and more than 500 other businesses ranging from cultivators, testing labs, manufacturers, and wholesalers.
“Some of our best-selling items are low dosage, topical creams, things like that. You wouldn’t think, as a recreational facility, that would be something you would sell a lot of,” says Northeast Kannabis owner Matthew Racenet.
Northeast Kannabis has been open since December, and owners Matthew and Aleha Racenet say they’ve been busy. “The most often comment we get is I never thought I’d see this in my lifetime,” said Racenet.
As the market evolves, so do the products. The duo says they’ve sold 200 different strains and 35 different vendors.
About 90 minutes north, cultivators like Family Tree Cannabis say feedback from the community has shaped their role.
“We’re also getting an opportunity to listen and hear what people want. We’re filling niches now with products that we didn’t necessarily think were going to be our bread and butter coming in,” said co-owner Ben Lanza.
They’ve been in business since day one, meaning they’ve also been paying expensive taxes and fees, and have missed out on federal tax breaks.
“We pay far more to operate our business in banking fees, license fees, and taxes than any other industry. So it can be hard to stay competitive,” said co-owner Jane Danza.
Retailers echo the costly concern that will be in place as long as cannabis remains illegal on the federal level.
“As soon as we can get access to the banking system, as soon as we can get access to those tax breaks that other businesses get to have, playing by all the same rules that we’re playing by right now. It would be nice,” said Racenet.
Hundreds of others are in the same boat, but the Cannabis Control Board says the market remains healthy.
77% of the 500 licensees are cultivators who are growing unique products, and as for the 59 retailers, nearly 30% are in Montpelier, Waterbury, or Burlington.
James Pepper with the C.C.B. says there is no provision to stop new retailers in the same area.
“Despite the fact that this is a high-risk industry and people are operating without some of the more traditional safety nets like unemployment insurance or bankruptcy protection. You have to let the market play out. The first person in isn’t necessarily the best,” said Pepper.
Pepper says towns do have the authority to zone storefronts and could avoid overly dense retail locations if they chose. Unlike alcohol stores, the C.C.B. does not have the authority to require an economic analysis of how the retail store would survive.
Retail stores are in 30 towns in the state, so there are also swaths of so-called ‘cannabis deserts’ where retail has not yet been approved in town.
Pepper also says looking towards the future, they’re assessing whether the industry has hit the balance of supply and demand as well as looking at other states to see what Vermont can do to advance the market to be caught up, or lead the way.