The Vermont Cannabis Control Board urged applicants to not jump the gun on starting up their cannabis business while they wait to be approved for licenses, just as the agency green lights the first adult use testing lab.
“One of these minimum standards relates to your current behavior,” said chair James Pepper during the board’s June 6 meeting. “There is a difference between someone who is historically impacted by the War on Drugs and someone who is currently, flagrantly violating the law and our rules in respect to growing, selling and advertising.”
Pepper noted that although the adult use market is intended to create an entryway into the legal market for long-time illicit market operators, applicants are expected to walk the straight and narrow while seeking a legal license.
“One of our priorities is to shift the legacy market into the regulated market, but we cannot look the other way on these types of issues,” he said. “We’re jeopardizing the entire industry in Vermont if we ignore the FinCEN (Financial Crimes Enforcement Network) guidance and grant licenses to people who are openly violating state and federal law.”
The announcement comes as the agency approaches the one-month mark since it approved its first adult-use cannabis license. Rutland Craft Cannabis became the state’s first approved adult use cultivator on May 16. The CCB approved 10 more cultivator licenses, four indoor, two outdoor and four mixed before the June 6 meeting, where the Board approved seven more cultivation licenses.
The Board also approved its first license for a cannabis testing lab, which went to Bia Diagnostics in Colchester.
“Each of these eight applicants has met the criteria for licensure according to staff and we are recommending them for a license,” said CCB Executive Director Brynn Hare.
Despite the first testing lab license being issued, concerns remain for the state’s overall testing regimen, which only requires THC potency tests.
“As we know at this point we still have no mandate for testing for any contaminates and in-house THC testing is the only thing that is mandated,” said Jessilyn Dolan of the Vermont Cannabis Nurses Association. “We now have a hemp program which has higher standards than our adult use program and a medical program that has lower standards than both of those programs combined. In my mind that’s a little bit backwards from what we would want.”
Yearim Plantillas of Red Clover Analytics added that he was concerned by the lack of updates to the testing standards for the state’s medical program.
We haven’t heard anything from the medical program,” he said. “One of my big concerns with opening a testing lab was to make sure I provided that security for patients.”
Last week, Governor Phil Scott signed Senate Bill 188 into effect. The new law features a variety of small technical changes to the state’s regulation of cannabis, but it also included a new 60% cap on cannabis concentrates, which Plantillas said places an unfair burden on producers.
“A big thing I’ve learned is that no concentrate that’s worth it’s money is going to come out below 60%,” he said.
Pepper also said that the CCB was not forgetting the medical program, but acknowledged that the current demands to approve licenses for adult use, made it tougher to update the medical side.
“The medical program is always on our minds and we do need to think about the direction we want to go there,” he said.