SPRINGFIELD, Vt. – On Monday, Jan. 31, the Springfield Selectboard held an informational meeting to discuss the upcoming vote on whether or not to allow retail cannabis establishments within the town. Chair of the Selectboard, Walter Martone, and Vice Chair, Michael Martin, fielded questions on the allowance, along with David Silberman, High Bailiff of Addison County, and Maryann Moris, Executive Director of The Collaborative, a Londonderry-based group that provides substance-free curriculum for youth.
Legal cannabis, which has been approved by the state of Vermont, can now be sold within Vermont towns on an “opt-in” basis, that is, based on the approval of the town to allow local sale. During the meeting, the question arose on whether the tax revenue from opting-in would actually benefit the town, to which Silberman said that, while there would be a 20% tax on retail cannabis, that tax would go to the state, and not Springfield itself. 4% of the tax would go towards educational programs, and 16% towards a non-allocated “prevention” fund controlled by the Department of Helath. Springfield does meet the criteria to add a 1-2% local option tax on all sales, the money from which would stay in Springfield, although Silberman noted that very few towns statewide have adopted an option tax.
Concerns about an uptick in youth marijuana use were also voiced, to which Silberman pointed to statistics showing that there has been virtually no proven link between the presence of local cannabis sellers and an increase in youth use. Martone echoed Silberman, stating that, “Cannabis can still be brought into Springfield and used, regardless of whether we opt-in or not.” Should Springfield decide to vote in approval of retail cannabis, the town can decide on regulations regarding those establishments, such as the proximity allowed to school zones and recovery centers.
Another topic of discussion regarded which industries would be able to establish dispensaries in Springfield, the concern being that large corporations might overwhelm small businesses. On this subject, Moris explained that each town would appoint a local board to oversee licensing in the matter, an effort to ensure that cannabis retailers fell in line with town values. Silberman added that, across the nation, Vermont had the strictest laws in regard to licensing. According to Silberman, “[In Vermont] if you want to own a cannabis store, you can own a cannabis store, not two.” Emphasis was placed on how these local boards would be able to determine the criteria and nuisance ordinances applicable to cannabis retailers within that town.
Springfield Selectboard meetings are held every second and fourth Monday of the month. The Town Meeting will be held Monday, Feb. 28, at 7:30 p.m. Voting will be held by Australian Ballot on Tuesday, March 1.