MANCHESTER — The first would-be cannabis retailer in town has been tentatively granted zoning approval, and is now awaiting approval by the state Cannabis Control Board to begin legal sales of products containing THC.
Aunt Bonnie’s Elevated, owned by Vallis Goodermote and currently doing business as Aunt Bonnie’s CBD at 97 Depot St., was granted approval by the Development Review Board on Friday.
It’s the first retail business permitted by town regulators to legally sell cannabis products containing THC – the psychoactive compound in marijuana that produces a “high” – under state law that made such sales legal starting Saturday. Vermont is the 19th state to make such sales legal, but cannabis remains an illegal controlled substance under federal law.
Manchester Town Meeting voters opted in for retail sales in March. In May, the Select Board approved a zoning ordinance amendment providing for cannabis retail as a conditionally approved use in the Town Center zone.
Aunt Bonnie’s presently sells cannabidiol (CBD) products, which do not contain THC. But the business has to wait for the state Cannabis Control Board to rule on its license application before THC goes on sale there.
Goodermote had sought the DRB permit first to show state regulators that she had local approval for her business. She’s confident the state panel will approve her request.
Under the DRB decision, the business may not begin selling cannabis “until a certificate of compliance is secured from the Zoning Administrator and a license from the Vermont Cannabis Control Board is secured.”
The DRB decision noted that the addition of a THC retailer is in keeping with the town’s newly adopted policy on cannabis sales in the Town Center district. It concluded that the business will support the town’s retail economy and economic development, and will have little impact on the surrounding pedestrian environment or on traffic.
“Unlike in nearby Massachusetts towns a few years ago, the novelty of the first legal marijuana sales within the Town of Manchester will likely wear off quickly as other retail outlets are licensed by the Vermont Cannabis Control Board and permitted in other nearby municipalities,” the DRB said.
Other conditions include reducing wall-mounted signs on the east and south facades to 9 square feet or smaller; that the free-standing sign for the business on Depot Street will be black with white lettering; and that the window signs will be white with red lettering. The business presently has a freestanding white sign with black and red lettering and its logo, and red window signs.
Beyond that, Goodermote said, there’s work to do on her space to get ready. The state law authorizing retail sales also requires significant security features on site, including cameras running seven days a week, 24 hours a day. The business must also limit entrants to those 21 or older and securely store all cannabis on the property.
The business is leasing the storefront from Manchester Designer Outlets. It’s been open for about a year, selling cannabidol (CBD) products as a homeopathic remedy for sleeplessness, pain and stress.
Goodermote is also seeking a wholesale license from the Cannabis Control Board, “so we can sell Aunt Bonnie’s brand products down the road,” she said. The plan is to create THC products that can be sold by other dispensaries throughout the state, she said.
Under the state law, cannabis products sold in Vermont must be grown and manufactured within the state.
“We’ll always focus on wellness,” Goodermote said. “People are using cannabis to help them sleep, to help them with stress levels, or to manage pain. And some people just want to get high, and we will be here to support those people as well.”
As of Monday, the state has issued a total of four retail licenses statewide, in Middlebury, Rutland, Burlington and Brattleboro.