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Vermont dispensaries to start selling recreational marijuana

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Olin Schumacher, co-owner of Vermont Pure CBD in Shoreham, VT, shows the hemp that they grown on their farm and extract CBD oil from on the National Cannabis Industry Association’s Seed to Sale convention on the Hynes Convention Center in Boston on Feb. 13, 2019.

John Tlumacki | Boston Globe | Getty Images

Vermont dispensaries are set to start selling marijuana for recreational use, though only three will probably be able to achieve this on opening weekend.

FLORA Cannabis in Middlebury, Mountain Girl Cannabis in Rutland and CeresMED in Burlington will all open on Saturday. A fourth business has been licensed to sell recreational pot but is not able to achieve this yet.

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As happened with the rollout of recreational marijuana sales in other states and in Canada, Vermont’s inaugural weekend will probably be “more of a soft opening,” as more product manufacturers and testing facilities come online and as more people harvest the plant, said James Pepper, chair of the state Cannabis Control Board.

Vermont will join 14 other states with legal adult-use cannabis sales, in keeping with the Marijuana Policy Project. 4 other states — Connecticut, Latest York, Rhode Island, and Virginia — and Washington, D.C., have legalized the usage of recreational marijuana, but sales have not began there yet.

Vermont’s Cannabis Control Board prioritized review and waived licensing fees for social equity applicants. Such applicants are Black or Hispanic, or from communities that historically have been disproportionately affected by cannabis being outlawed or who’ve been or had a member of the family who has been incarcerated for a cannabis-related offense.

Greater than 30 social equity applicants, mostly growers, have been approved, with Mountain Girl Cannabis, owned by Ana and Josh MacDuff, being the primary such retailer.

“For us it was really necessary to be first in Vermont, or certainly one of the primary,” said Ana MacDuff, who’s Hispanic.

The Vermont stores say they anticipate having enough supply, but some growers have been frustrated by the timeline.

The Cannabis Control Board was tasked with concurrently forming regulations and reviewing applicants, and plenty of growers anticipated that they might get licensed in May but didn’t, said Bernardo Antonio, education director for the Vermont Growers Association, a trade group.

“Outdoor cultivators for this 12 months have gone all 12 months waiting for licenses with the query of whether or not they should plant or not because they’re attempting to make this their business and they cannot really go 16 months without earning,” he said. “So straight away, there’s loads of outdoor cultivators still waiting for licensing. I mean the season’s over for them.”

Pepper said he understands the frustration. But he said the board has achieved lots and couldn’t have done more given the relatively short period of time it has been around and its small initial staff size.

“What we’re focused on on the board is consumer safety and public safety, and truthfully, a slow rollout just isn’t the worst thing on the planet,” Pepper said. “I mean in five years, nobody’s gonna care. But they’ll care if there is a rash of burglaries or if there was a product that was making people sick.”

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