Chester resident gets cannabis sales on the ballot

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2022 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Chester voters will be making one more choice when they go to the polls (or fill out absentee ballots) for this Town Meeting day, as a petition to put an opt-in vote on retail sales of recreational cannabis garnered the required signatures to put it before the public.

The Select Board on Friday approved adding as a separate article after enough valid signatures on a petition were handed in to the town clerk.

Chester business owner Scott Blair organized the petition drive to put cannabis retail sales on the ballot. Photo by Cynthia Prairie

With the legalization of recreational use of cannabis, the Vermont legislature gave municipalities the ability to decide whether they wanted to have retail sales in their area. The decision cannot be made by a select board or by a floor vote at a meeting but rather must be made by town voters by Australian ballot.

In Chester, the Select Board had declined to put the question to the voters in 2021 as well as this year, so Scott Blair, who owns a shop selling CBD (cannabidiol) products, circulated a petition asking “Shall the Town of Chester authorize cannabis retailers in town pursuant to 7 V.S.A. § 863.”

Blair, who with his wife Leslie, also owns Southern Pie Cafe in Chester, said he wanted the vote so that if it passed, he could begin the process of obtaining  a license and financing to open a dispensary. Retail sales are set to begin in October of this year and Blair has said he needs the time to put his plans together.

Ahead of the vote, which will be held on Tuesday, March 1, Blair says he will be putting out materials and holding informational meetings at the cafe on the Green. Blair told The Telegraph that he would be having guest speakers  talk about the medical value of the product. He also said local farmers who will be growing the cannabis would speak as well.

Blair said that if the opt-in vote is successful, he would be selling locally grown cannabis, which he believes will be of higher quality because small growers will take greater pains with their product than large industrial farms. In addition to the meetings at the cafe, Blair says he will be producing fliers and other materials to inform voters.

Voting on the article will be on 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 1, 2022 at Town Hall, 556 Elm St., or by absentee ballot or early voting in the town office. Absentee ballots may be requested from the Chester Town Clerk at 802-875-2178

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  1. Robert Nied says:

    Chester’s current zoning would allow retail cannabis dispensaries to operate anywhere retail stores can operate. They would be allowed in multiple districts including some residential areas such as R20, the Stone District, the Village Center and commercial areas. In some districts they would be allowed as “conditional uses,” meaning they would require review by the Development Review Board. The DRB would not be permitted to consider any factors that it does not consider for non-cannabis businesses. For instance they could not impose restrictions on the size, appearance, hours of operation, lighting, parking, or the signage of the dispensary if they are not already applied to all retail businesses in the same district. The only other restriction that would apply is the 500 ft. buffer zones. That remains to be determined, but that could make some areas near the green off-limits, but not others.

  2. Scott Blair says:

    Bob, the location for this would be in retail zoned areas being it is a retail business. The town also has drug free zones as well so it would need to be I believe 500 feet from school zone.

    Dispensaries will have to go through DRB steps like any other business, which entails parking requirements, trash, hours, signage and also includes time for neighbors of the property to dispute.

    There will also be security requirements, no one under the age of 21 can enter or work in the establishment. Not positive if the state will require you to have your own dedicated parking lot like other states but anyone looking to open a dispensary would most likely want that.

    Opting in will be strictly for retail sales. The town cannot block farmers, producers etc. to do business in town. Laws are still in place like if one buys alcohol, you cannot buy them and then use in public place or while driving — it will be a DUI.

    Also at the retail dispensaries one cannot partake it is strictly a retail purchase. Please let me know if you have other questions or concerns I can answer.

  3. Bob Sartini says:

    Anyone have an idea about if approved where a shop should be allowed? Anywhere? On the Green? In the Shell station? Out of site altogether? In view of the school? Before I could vote for or against I would have to know where.