BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) – A major shakeup in Vermont’s cannabis industry as the state’s largest medical marijuana company merges with a Canadian-based cannabis company.
The global company will have first dibs on Vermont’s tax and regulated market when sales begin this upcoming May. The news has local growers concerned about the future of cannabis sales.
The deal with SLANG worldwide is worth $25 million. It allows some of Vermont’s largest medical cannabis companies, now known as CeresMED to better prepare themselves for the tax and regulated market to begin next year.
However, craft and small growers say it’s just another hurdle for them to overcome.
“We know people don’t travel for Walmarts, they travel for Hill Farmsteads, they travel for craft products, so that’s who we want to make sure are included in the marketplace as soon as possible now knowing these three large businesses will be included in the marketplace,” says Geoffrey Pizzutillo from the Vermont Growers Association.
Pizzutillo has been fighting for the local producers since lawmakers established the tax and regulated cannabis market. But still, medical cannabis license holders, get a five-month head start to being retail sales. Advocates worry the date discrepancy is a structural inequity.
“Ultimately I think that a lot of regular citizens just want to buy something legally. But people in Vermont we take pride in our products it’s a question for people in Vermont whether corporate cannabis is the first thing we want to do in that legal space,” says cannabis consultant Eli Harrington.
Last month, the Champlain Valley Dispensary and Southern Vermont Wellness began operations under the name CeresMED. The two locations service around 70 percent of registered patients in Vermont. About 50 people are employed now, and the new partnership with SLANG — will double that. The company will also invest in a 50,000-foot expansion to grow cannabis and keep up with the demand. Ceresmd is encouraging craft growers to get their licenses to cultivate when they are able to in may of 2022 so they can sell the product on their shelves.
“We want to have Vermont brands right next to brands on our shelves at our retail locations and so we are going to be looking to actively support producers who align with our values and carry them in our stores,” says Bridget Conry of CeresMED.
Vermont’s Cannabis Control Board continues to chart the course for retail sales. The chair says there are incentives in place to help ensure market diversity.
“People really want to purchase from someone who they know grows organically, who they know does third party testing and that’s not necessarily true with these multi-state operators, and you know while it comes as a little bit of a shock there is enough room in this market for small cultivators to thrive,” says James Pepper who is the chair of the Cannabis Control Board.
While companies that hold medical cannabis licenses can begin sales next May. All other retailers won’t be able to start until October 2022. But, 5 Vermont municipalities — including Burlington — have already passed a universal start date of October — to allow for an even playing field.
it’s estimated that cannabis sales will reach up to $230 million in Vermont in 2023.
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