The Vermont Cannabis Control Board on Friday set a rule banning retail marijuana stores within 150 feet of a school.
“I’m not sure if it matters if a non-sports cannabis establishment is walking the woods,” said board member Julie Hulburd.
Prevention Works! VT, a coalition to prevent drug abuse, recommended a 300-meter buffer zone between schools and a cannabis retail outlet. The rule adopted by the board will allow cities to reduce buffer zones or expand them up to 300 meters.
Hulburd said small towns had told the board that they only had a small downtown area and wanted to open a cannabis shop there.
The board also debated whether or not applicants for provisional licenses should be required to pay all taxes they owe, but ultimately decided to abolish the requirement for previous cannabis activities.
The board’s job is to encourage dealers and breeders who have illegally sold cannabis to enter a regulated market.
“It would be difficult if someone was convicted of human trafficking and there was no record of tax payments,” said CEO James Pepper.
Forcing applicants to disclose that they do not pay taxes on profits from illicit cannabis sales could bring them into conflict with federal law enforcement agencies.
“There is no way I want to endanger people at the federal level, so we may not want to enforce tax compliance,” Hulburd said.
Pepper suggested requiring tax compliance on everything except previous illicit cannabis sales.
Board member Kyle Harris agreed to this proposal, pointing out that it would be difficult to get small producers to join the regulated market if they were forced to disclose that they had not paid taxes on past sales.
“We will never get the old market that we want to conquer if we enforce cultivation,” said Harris.
The board members recognized the pressure they are under to put rules in place before the short growing season begins in spring.
A preliminary license is the first step in obtaining permission to operate a cannabis business. Once applicants have obtained a preliminary license, they can attract investors.
The public will still be able to comment on the proposed rules, including distance from schools, in the coming weeks.
“None of this is set in stone,” said Pepper.
Retail cannabis stores can open in Vermont from October 2022.
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