Will Vermont lawmakers loosen the state’s adult use cannabis regulations in 2022?
The state’s Cannabis Control Board is recommending they do so in several ways, from allowing for products with higher levels of THC to allowing for public consumption spaces.
Vermont’s road to legal cannabis sales has been unlike that of any other state. While lawmakers passed a bill to legalize cannabis for adults in 2018, it allowed only for possession and home cultivation, and not for sales. In late 2020, a bill to allow for sales became law without the governor’s signature, as Cannabis Wire reported at the time. And, it took a particularly conservative approach: still, for example, the state is the only one to put a cap on how much THC could be in cannabis flower.
Against this slow-moving backdrop, the state’s Cannabis Control Board submitted its required report to the Vermont legislature this month. The report laid out a wide spectrum of recommendations, from online ordering and delivery (both of which the Board recommended the legislature take up and pass this session) to additional license types, like craft cooperative, on-site consumption, and special events.
The report covers a couple of recommendations that are more off the beaten path: whether to allow visible cannabis “paraphernalia” by non-licensed shops, like head shops, and whether cannabis products “should contain a minimum amount of cannabidiol (CBD) to aid in the prevention of cannabis-induced psychosis.”
No other state suggests or requires a cannabidiol (CBD) “minimum” for the sole purpose of THC-related “psychosis,” though there’s existing research that suggests that CBD does mitigate some of the potentially unpleasant psychoactive effects of THC. The Board pointed to existing federal law, which poses hurdles to research, and concluded that “whether cannabis use can cause or induce psychosis is not a settled question of science.”
“After reviewing many available studies and accepting their limitations, the Board does not believe there is sufficient evidence to impose a legal minimum cannabidiol amount or ratio in legal cannabis products,” the report said.
The report also included a summary of Vermont regulators’ efforts on equity. An October report to the legislature proposed “social equity criteria” for applicants, and if they met it, they’d have waived or lesser licensing fees, as well as “disbursements” from the Cannabis Business Development Fund. In the latest report, the Board noted that it is “developing a social equity program to support social equity applicants with outreach, education, and technical assistance.”
The Board recommended a series of “far-reaching policies to mitigate the long-standing social and economic inequities fueled by cannabis prohibition,” and recommended that lawmakers make these policies a reality. The report, for example, asks that the legislature earmark 5-10% of the state’s cannabis tax revenue to be directed to the Business Development Fund.
“The Cannabis Business Development Fund is not adequately funded to provide meaningful economic opportunities to social equity applicants and businesses on an ongoing basis,” the report highlighted.
The Board also recommended that lawmakers create a Cannabis Community Reinvestment Fund to “funnel” 20% of the cannabis tax revenue to “communities disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition,” and for the funds to be earmarked annually.
“Not all individuals from communities harmed by prohibition want to participate in the adult-use industry. Reinvesting cannabis revenue into these communities is a more comprehensive approach to mitigating the harms caused by disproportionate criminal legal enforcement,” the report noted.
In Vermont, cannabis products containing a THC concentration above 60% are banned. This, the report noted, further perpetuates the illicit market as well as the risk of increased arrests for cannabis offenses. “Racial disparities for drug arrests and sentencing persist to this day, and the continued prohibition of high THC cannabis and cannabis products again asks communities of color to bear the burden of biased enforcement.”
The Board recommended lifting the ban on high THC products, and also recommended raising the 30% THC ceiling on cannabis flower being sold in the state. And, the Board recommended that the cannabis program include the manufacturing and sales of delta-8 THC and “other Deltas, and future synthetic cannabinoids with similar properties, whether they are derived from hemp or from high-THC cannabis.”