Live picture of the Vermont cannabis application process. Credit: Christa Dodoo / Unsplash

Aspiring adult use cannabis operators in Vermont flooded the state’s Cannabis Control Board with hundreds of prequalification applications in anticipation of the April 1 adult use license application start date.

“There’s a lot of excitement in the state right now,” said Geoffrey Pizzutillo, executive director of the Vermont Growers Association.

CCB Chair James Pepper announced that his agency had already received 395 prequalification applications as of the Mar. 28 meeting of the CCB, leaving four days before the open of the adult use license application window. 

Pizzutillo said that his organization covers a wide swatch of prospective operators. Some of which are planning to immediately apply, while other members are waiting out the initial round of regulations.

“We’ve got business members who have been preparing for this for about a year or two. They have commercial space and they’ve been building out their operation in preparation for licensure in May,” he said. “We’ve also got dues-paying members that are twenty or thirty year-long veterans as legacy cultivators, who are taking their time. They see this rule-making process as very much fluid.”

Vermont opened its prequalification phase on March 16. This created a window of about two weeks before the official start of the adult use license application period.

As of April 1, aspiring operators can apply for small cultivator, testing lab or integrated licenses. The first issuance of those licenses could come as early as May 1, the same day that all sizes of cultivators can apply.

The application period for manufacturing or wholesale licenses, starts July 1, with issuances coming a month later.

The state will begin accepting applications for adult use retail in September, with the earliest issuance of a retail license coming Oct. 1.

Technically, retail sales can begin in Vermont as soon as May 1. Existing medical dispensary license holders can apply for an integrated/hybrid license on April 1, allowing the medical company to enter the adult use market with their existing cannabis supply.

The timeline may be an optimistic one, in terms of an implied, though not explicitly stated one month turnaround, which is a concern for some consumers, such as medical patient Keith Rowe.

“The process is very long and tedious to go through for all participants. I believe it would take up to 90 days to be vetted for each and every business owner, partners, then prospective employees,” he said. “The CCB is going to need more employees to handle all of the applications and be available for questions as they arise from each business owner being in different communities with different zoning laws and by laws and processes as well. This process is not a very quick one.”

The VGA originally opposed the 2020 law that legalized the adult use market, based on the lack of social equity considerations. Since then the organization worked with the Cannabis Control Board as it defined the new adult use cannabis regulations.

“We are pleased to hear that the State House has given them more fun than we hope that they build out their agency,” said Pizzutillo. “They are definitely overwhelmed, but we support their work.”

Pizzutillo also said despite his reservations with the enabling law, he and the VGA are optimistic that they can improve the adult use cannabis market regulations through the legislature.

“The real heavy lift is in the State House,” he said. “Right now we’re very much active in that building to try to bring the market a little bit closer to fairness.” 

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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...