The CeresMED dispensary in South Burlington, VT. Credit: CeresMED website

Multi state operators will likely get the first bite out of Vermont adult use retail market in late spring, but the state’s largest city plans to make them wait until October before competing with smaller home grown operators.

“Medical dispensaries have first-mover advantage,” said Geoffrey Pizzutillo, executive director of the Vermont Growers Association.

Over two dozen municipalities across Vermont voted on Town Meeting Day a month ago to allow adult use cannabis operations into the city. In the case of Burlington, Vermont, the state’s largest city, the opt-in vote included a stipulation that all retail license holders must wait until October to commence operation, despite medical license holders having a five-month head start under state regulations.

The change in the opt-in language was the result of lobbying from VGA, which actually operates out of Burlington.

“That fundamentally changed the roll out for these large market actors,” said Pizzutillo. “We fully expect them to open and they will open. They’re not going to lose out on those opening day sales, but they can no longer operate in the most unique densely populated areas of the state because of our advocacy.”

Pizzutillo said that he hopes the legal language serves as a model for other parts of Vermont as means to level the playing field for prospective craft growers and independent retailers.

Vermont began accepting applications for its adult use market on April 1. On that date the state’s existing medical license holders were permitted to apply for a retail license, while all other retail applicants must wait until Sept. 1.

Vermont currently has five medical cannabis dispensaries in operation, all of which are vertically integrated operations and all are at least partially under the control of out-of-state companies.

One of those dispensaries, New York-based iAnthus Capital Holdings owns Grassroots, while Curaleaf owns PhytoCare and Vermont Patients Alliance. The remaining two dispensaries in the state are owned by CeredMED, which agreed to a buyout last summer from Canadian cannabis conglomerate SLANG Worldwide.

This means that out of state operators will likely get the first opportunity for retail sales, since medical license holders are allowed to apply as early as April 1, and can be approved to open by May 1.

The option for a head start was not lost on the state’s medical operators. In a press release from July, 2021, SLANG Worldwide announced its intention to buy CeresMED, which operates two medical cannabis dispensaries in Vermont.

The release touts the assumption that the deal includes the opportunity for two adult use licenses in the future, based on the two medical licenses CeresMED already owns.

“In the upcoming licensing process for adult use, current medical license holders will have early access to the market alongside Vermont’s craft growers, giving them a significant opportunity to build consumer loyalty,” said the unsigned release.

Vermont’s Cannabis Control Board recently announced that it had received over 400 pre-qualification applications in a little over a week. The state has yet to release any stats on formal license applications, but they are likely to include many aspiring operators from across the state and beyond.

The CCB did not respond to a request for comment, but based on the automatic phone message at their main office, the board is currently inundated with applications.

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Zack cut his journalistic teeth covering high school sports in the south before spending a decade covering local government, politics and the courts in the Boston, Massachusetts area. He's previously written...