The Vermont Cannabis Control Commission released a pair of recommendations that would require companies to share medical and adult-use crops, as well as make it easier for employees to swap employers. Specifically, cultivation sites would not be required to separate crops based on where they will be sold and employees would be able to retain their state cannabis ID if they switch employers.
Every employee of a cannabis company must have a state-issued ID card that identifies them as a part of the industry. Owners and business partners are granted IDs as part of the original licensing process, but employees receive them after they are hired. Currently, the state requires that those ID cards are tied to the specific business, meaning that the business itself obtains the ID cards for its workers. This also means that any time an employee leaves their job to work for a different cannabis company, they must obtain a brand new ID card.
The control board recommended that the state change that rule to prevent employees from getting trapped at companies
“I like the flexibility that removing the tie to a specific establishment provides to the worker. Otherwise you get locked into one place and there’s a real barrier to you being able to leave,” said Pepper. “It’s an added cost to the worker if you do decide to leave.”
The current rules, which the control board recommended be changed, when a cannabis company hires a new person, they submit their application to the state along with the prospective employee’s fingerprints and a criminal background check. The prospective employee must get their fingerprints taken on their own, but the employer must reimburse them. This could create a wrinkle in a plan where IDs are no longer tied to employers.
“If you’re not getting your employee ID tied to an establishment, who is going to reimburse?” asked Pepper.
Hulburd said that she expects businesses to continue paying for fingerprinting because it would serve as an employment benefit.
When the rules that govern adult-use cannabis businesses formally go into effect once adult-use licensing begins in Vermont next May, medical dispensaries that were able to also obtain adult-use licenses will be able to transfer some of their existing crop to the recreational retail market, under a temporary provision that is part of the law that legalized adult-use in the first place.
The adult-use market will need an initial supply and at the same time, the medical market will have to make sure its patients also have a supply.
“I think this provision was included to ensure that we don’t see any supply shortage when these first retail sales begin and there are no other cultivators with plants in the ground other than the medical dispensaries,” said Pepper. “If there’s a full transfer, then there might be nothing left for the patients that rely on that supply.”
The CCB recommended that they be required to maintain at least a three-month supply, based on the company’s own data, to serve their medical patients when transferring plants to the adult-use market. The CCB also decided that it would not be reasonable to require cultivators to have separate crops for adult-use and medical.
“I think it’s unnecessary and somewhat burdensome,” he said. “If you have a segregated crop, the medical patients are not going to have access to the variety of strains that will be grown on the adult side with the larger canopy.”
Aside from actual product, medical dispensaries that begin selling adult-use cannabis will have to accommodate two different types of customers. Whether it be through separate physical entrances or through a reservation system, Pepper said that dispensaries with mixed clientele should prioritize access for medical patients.
“What I really want to see is that if there’s a long line, medical patients still get to go right in,” he said.