MONTPELIER — With medical cannabis laws ending earlier this month, the state Cannabis Control Board put emergency rules into effect to continue legal sales in Vermont.
Board members met on Monday to vote on those and other rules, and to discuss their social equity policies and background check procedures.
James Pepper, board chairperson, started the meeting by discussing the prequalification process for cannabis retailers. That process starts Wednesday at 9 a.m. Pepper made it clear that this voluntary process is not required for licensure.
“The purpose of prequalification is to smooth the application process for applicants, and to assist the board in anticipating the structure of the market,” according to the board website.
Prequalification is an extra step that requires a $500 nonrefundable fee, fingerprint submission, and it will not give the applicant authority to start selling cannabis. When it’s time for the final application, the $500 will be applied to the final application fee.
Because the board’s fee bill has not been signed by the governor and made law, the board cannot collect any fees. Applicants can submit the prequalification application now, and the board will contact applicants to collect fees before the prequalification is issued.
“I think we’ve been operating under the assumption that prequalification is essentially just for getting information,” said David Scherr, the board’s general counsel.
The board plans to use the information from these applications to help guide it through the rest of the retail application process.
After Pepper’s remarks, the board unanimously voted to adopt two rules, one that dictates licensing for cannabis establishments and another that states the regulation of said establishments.
The board also unanimously adopted three emergency rules, covering medical cannabis, compliance and enforcement of cannabis laws in Vermont, as well as the regulation of retail sites. Emergency rules are effective immediately, whereas traditionally adopted rules take 15 days to come into effect.
The retail site regulations will only be an emergency rule for 15 days, and then it will become standard practice.
Emergency rules were necessary because state medical cannabis law, which covers therapeutic use, was repealed as of March 1. There were no rules in place to govern the medical cannabis program, until the emergency rules were approved.
Social equity, background checks
The board also delved into social equity and background check guidance.
It was decided that if the board required more information from an applicant, whether regarding a criminal background or another aspect of an application, the applicant will be able to provide the additional information verbally or in writing. This is to ensure that applicants who don’t articulate themselves well through writing will have an equal opportunity to provide more information.
A point of contention in the meeting was background checks. Commissioner Julie Hulburd advocated for sending applicants a copy of their background check, if requested, as reasoning for the rejection of their application.
Pepper and other members of the meeting were concerned with the liability and logistical roadblocks that could come with sharing the information. They decided further guidance was needed before a final decision could be made.
A few additional issues were raised during the public comment portion of the meeting. Meeting attendee Thayer Gowdy expressed their concern for the lack of guidance regarding the packaging requirements for cannabis products.
Benjamin Fisher, an outdoor grower, also expressed a need for more guidance on proper fencing and outdoor growing requirements.
Other attendees asked questions during the public comment portion of the meeting, but the board directed attendees with questions to send an email to CCB.Info@vermont.gov.