BENNINGTON — Business partners Becky Barrier and Bernie Barriere have a motto for their CBD-based wellness shop opening at the Four Corners late July:
"No more bad days."
By offering various products and being available for free consultations, Barrier and Barriere of Vermont Green Grow Wellness Center at 400 Main St. hope to help their customers be well again, whether the products are bought to manage pain, manage anxiety disorders, help chronic illness symptoms, or even bring relief to a beloved pet. As of now, the opening date is July 21.
Despite rumors to the contrary, Barrier and Barriere said, they have no intention of seeking a permit to operate a medical cannabis dispensary, but they do plan on having a wide selection of CBD products and services.
What is CBD?
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a cannabis compound growing in popularity for its various health benefits. This compound does not contain THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive compound in marijuana that makes a user feel "high." Those who use CBD will not experience any psychoactive effects or an altered state of mind, but may feel relaxed and more at-ease.
CBD is one of many natural chemicals found in a marijuana plant- just like THC- and is extracted from marijuana strains that have extremely low or nonexistent levels of THC.
It has been used to treat seizure disorders, lessen anxiety, reduce pain, lessen the side effects of cancer treatment, and more.
Products with CBD are technically legal in all 50 states, but with caveats. Consumers must be 18 and older to enter the Bennington wellness center, but some states require consumers to be 21 and over. People do not need a medical card to purchase CBD products.
Last year, Barriere applied for a medical marijuana license in town, but it was ultimately granted to S.J. "Wilson" Decandio, who is operating PhytoCare Vermont at 120 Depot St.
Glass cases in the building hold various CBD products with different doses, like gummies, pills, oils, and cartridges for vaporizer pens. The wellness center will also feature a juice bar with freshly made CBD-infused juices, coffee, tea, and edibles made by local bakeries.
In addition to the ingestible products, they will offer CBD oil massages, CBD-infused shampoo for pets, and free consultations for people who have questions about the product and its uses. The center will also offer a twice-a-week women's health specialist visit to answer questions, and free Wi-Fi.
A difficult path
Barriere has an emotional connection to the business. Years ago, his mother was diagnosed with cancer that ultimately led to her passing. During treatment, the oncologist discreetly told Barriere that he may want to get his mother cannabis, which was still illegal at that time, to help with her cancer symptoms.
"Basically, it turned me into a criminal I had to get it to her," he said. "And I'd do it all again."
While medical marijuana was legalized in Vermont in 2004, eligible patients had to have a terminal disease like AIDS or cancer. Barriere spent many long days and nights advocating for a statewide bill -S.16- to be passed so the law could be expanded to patients who needed relief, but weren't terminal.
Barriere also sees issues with Vermont's medical dispensaries and believes making them a monopoly is detrimental to the state. Since 2012, the state has opened four medical dispensaries, one in Burlington and Brattleboro owned by one person, another in Montpelier owned by the partner of the man who owns the former, and one in Brandon owned by a corporation.
According to Barriere, these places have charged upwards of $375 for an ounce of low-quality marijuana.
"That's a lot of money," he said.
Also, no dispensaries were close enough to Bennington for a terminal patient to make the trip. Some of the shops offer delivery service, but adds a hefty amount onto an already high price for the product.
"The price was the biggest problem," Barriere said. "Having to be terminal (to be eligible) was another big problem."
Barriere contacted Senator Richard Sears and sat down with him to draft S.16 to expand the program. He thinks he made over 30 trips to and from the state house for this bill, but says it was worth it to "constantly advocate for the patients who couldn't stand up for themselves."
While S.16 went through the Senate with a unanimous vote, the House wasn't so easy. The already existing dispensaries didn't want competition, but Barriere advocated for competition to bring down costs and bring up quality.
"I stood my ground," he said.
Eventually, the bill was passed through the House on the condition that the four existing shops would be awarded permits to open one new satellite shop each. The bill was signed by the governor June 8, 2017.
After the bill passed, patients no longer had to have a terminal condition to qualify to get medical marijuana. They could have conditions such as PTSD, chronic pain, anxiety, and more to qualify.
Barrier and Barriere both have extensive knowledge about their products; they've tried each one themselves and are more than willing to answer questions from customers. They also say they look forward to bringing people to downtown Bennington.
"We are trying to help bring a little life back into Main Street," Barrier said. "We got really lucky with the location." Sited at the corner of Main and North streets, the storefront was most recently home to a real-estate agency.
They are hoping to eventually change the negative stigma around marijuana products, too.
"It's not about getting high," said Barrier, explaining that there are so many medical uses of marijuana products that are just now beginning to be acknowledged.
"Symptom relief (with CBD) may not be for everyone, but the chance should be," she added.
While they aren't certain of the price ranges yet, Barrier promises that the product will be "very affordable." Barriere added that anyone, regardless of race, religion, sex, or views is more than welcome to come to the shop.
Overall, the owners want to "start local and stay local" to support the town they grew up in. Eventually, they hope to participate in local farmers markets and showcase the vast array of products.
"We have a little something for everybody," Barrier said.
Christie Wisniewski can be reached at email@example.com and at 802-447-7567, ext. 111.