Retail cannabis sales vote: What you should know

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2022 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Vermont’s Cannabis Control Board meeting to review comments to Rule 4 on Tuesday.

On Town Meeting Day this year, Chester voters will go to the polls to vote on allowing the sale of recreational cannabis within the town. For those who are still on the fence, here are some resources to help with making a decision.

First, cannabis was made legal by Act 164 and your vote on March 1 will not change that. But Act 164 does allow a town to “opt-in” to allowing retail sales of recreational cannabis within its jurisdiction by Australian ballot. This means that the town’s voters – not the Select Board or Planning Commission – will decide.

Signage is among the items that municipalities can regulate. Photo by Erik Mclean for Pexels.

If the opt-in vote fails, there can be no retail sales. But, whether the issue passes or fails, it can still be petitioned for a re-vote. If, however, a town opts in but decides to opt back out in a year or two, the licensed cannabis retailers who have established businesses in the interim cannot be shut down by the town.

The opt-in vote only applies to retail cannabis sales. The town cannot prevent licensed growers or processors from setting up shop. Growing legal cannabis is considered farming, which is protected from many zoning laws and regulated by the Agency of Agriculture.

Cannabis will be subject to both a 6 percent sales tax as well as a 14 percent excise tax but currently none of that money is earmarked for the municipalities that host retail establishments. But, the state’s Cannabis Control Board has recommended that the legislature return 1 to 2 percent to the participating municipalities. Towns could also enact a local option tax, which would be added to the sales tax in that town.

On Monday night, Green Peak Alliance held an meeting regarding the vote, including actions that municipalities can take to regulate retail sales, information on the law and the Cannabis Control Board, which is making the rules for how the law will be implemented. That presentation can be viewed here by clicking the image to the right.

The presenters spoke about an “adult only” ordinance or bylaw that can regulate the businesses that cannot sell products to minors but would not single out cannabis.

Such a measure could allow towns to increase the size of buffer zones and extend them to places other than schools – like playgrounds, a library, youth center etc. The presenters pointed to a Weathersfield zoning amendment enacted in 2016 as an example.

Several members of Green Peak Alliance seemed to indicate that towns would also have the authority to limit the number of licenses it would allow, but calls to the CCB to confirm that were not returned by the publishing deadline. And a town could also name a local cannabis control commission that would have the power to regulate based on zoning, signage and nuisance regulations.

The board has issued five rules. Click on any one to see the rule.

  1. Rule One on Licensing of Cannabis Establishments,
  2. Rule Two on Regulation of Cannabis Establishments,
  3. Rule Three on Medical Cannabis,
  4. Rule Four on Compliance and Enforcement and
  5. Rule Five on removal of a member of the CCB.

The state Cannabis Control Board holds open meetings. Agendas, minutes and links to those meetings can be found by clicking here.  Orca media also has a library of CCB meeting videos available.

More resources: Vermont’s cannabis legislation

Title 7: Alcoholic Beverages, Cannabis, and Tobacco, Chapter 31: CANNABIS

Title 7: Alcoholic Beverages, Cannabis, and Tobacco, Chapter 33: CANNABIS ESTABLISHMENTS

Title 7: Alcoholic Beverages, Cannabis, and Tobacco, Chapter 35: MEDICAL CANNABIS REGISTRY

Title 7: Alcoholic Beverages, Cannabis, and Tobacco, Chapter 37: MEDICAL CANNABIS DISPENSARIES

Title 7: Alcoholic Beverages, Cannabis, and Tobacco, Chapter 39: CANNABIS SOCIAL EQUITY PROGRAMS

Title 32: Taxation and Finance, Chapter 207: CANNABIS EXCISE TAX



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  1. Thom Simmons says:

    I honestly think that most of the discussion about the ‘problems’ associated with opting-in are smokescreens. Cannabis is legal, and here to stay. For every argument against the opt-in, just pretend you’re talking about a new doughnut shop instead, and the paucity of the arguments against it are plain:

    “How much tax revenue will we receive if we allow a doughnut shop?!”

    “What are the state rules on doughnuts?!”

    “How many tourists will doughnuts attract?!”

    “How much will extra policing at a doughnut shop cost us?!”

    “Do we have rules in place to regulate a doughnut business?!”

    As for that last one, yes we do – we have Town zoning by-laws that regulate any kind of business whether it’s doughnuts or cannabis or art studios. All laws apply equally. We should not be asking if we should permit a business only if it checks off certain boxes that no other businesses are required to check off. The only thing we should be asking ourselves is why it has taken this society so long to throw off a morality-driven “reefer madness” mindset that has resulted in lives ruined in the criminal justice system and consumers harmed by black market product quality.

  2. Kathy Pellett says:

    Thanks Lee for your due diligence on this important issue. It’s a no win for Chester (or any other town) with regard to the tax collected. I agree, Chester should wait. We have more to gain if we do it right — even if that means not opting in at all. Do people really think drawing marijuana buyers to town is going to boost the overall economy for Chester?

  3. Jesse Atkins says:

    Lee Gustafson, what problems are you anticipating?
    Even if the town doesn’t get a share of the sales tax they would still get the benefits of the property taxes. People shopping at these businesses would also be likely to spend at other business in town which in turn would give a boost to the local economy. Correct me if I’m wrong.

  4. Lee Gustafson says:

    Thanks for the information. I recently reviewed the Rule 2 regulations (Regulation of Cannabis Establishments), and came up with almost 30 questions related to retail sales in Chester. I asked the Cannabis Control Board (CCB) some of the more pressing questions, and got no response to my latest email. Based on my review of this and other regulations, it appears that the state CCB is not ready for the April roll-out, and it is my belief that Chester should wait before opting in to allow retail sales until the state has worked out all the details. I would emphasize that the state gets ALL the benefit of marijuana sales, and the town would get none, just the costs of dealing with the problems. More costs means higher taxes.