Cannabis Control Board to pick director soon, will prioritize access to market based on race

Wikimedia Commons/Jonathan Wilkins

HOMEGROWN OR BIG BIZ: Vermont has legalized the recreational use of marijuana and now is preparing to launch a commercial cannabis market in 2022.

Lawmakers who pushed for a tax-and-regulate marijuana market in Vermont met last week with the state’s Cannabis Control Board to hear about next steps and reiterate their intent to show favoritism to minorities.

Among the three-member board’s upcoming tasks include choosing an executive director as the state prepares to open a retail cannabis market by the fall of 2022. The ideal candidate will be an attorney with legislative or regulatory experience. Eventually, the whole board will be comprised of 14 members.

At their June 2 meeting, the members walked through S.25, signed into law Monday by Gov. Phil Scott. The law mandates that racial equity measures be incorporated into the commercial cannabis industry. It also requires each community to vote by March 1, 2022, on whether to allow retail sales.

Led by Sen. Joe Benning, R-Caledonia, and Sen. Chris Pearson, P/D-Chittenden, S.25 has bipartisan support. The language ensures that skin color determines who gets priority for financial assistance to own a marijuana business. The Cannabis Control Board has discretion on granting licenses, including adjusting costs based on the applicant’s race. The distribution of low-interest loans also is based on race.

“The Cannabis Control Board shall propose a plan for reducing or eliminating licensing fees for individuals from communities that historically have been disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition or individuals directly and personally impacted by cannabis prohibition,” the law states.

By Jan. 15, 2022, the executive director of the Cannabis Control Board must get lawmakers a summary of its work with the Department of Labor, Agency of Commerce and Community Development, the Department of Corrections, and the Director of Racial Equity “to develop outreach, training, and employment programs focused on providing economic opportunities to individuals who historically have been disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition.”

James Pepper, the board’s chair, said “prioritizing social equity and social equity applicants” is a primary goal moving forward. He also said that financial barriers must not be overbearing for small-time growers.

“If the fee structures are going to be so high for the craft grower, for the micro and macro businesses, we’re never going to get off the ground,” he said.

During the meeting, Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, a proponent for marijuana legalization, cited a study by the RAND Corporation that indicated a large number of Vermonters have been using marijuana for years.

“If you had 70,000 to 80,000 Vermonters doing something that is illegal, [the law] needed to change,” he said.

Sears noted that after years of public hearings, one of the biggest concerns he hears from constituents is that big companies from out of state will take over the market.

“One of the principles that we got hit with when we had those public hearings was don’t allow Big Pot to come into Vermont,” he said. “That’s kind of the genesis of a lot of the language that you see in the bill. We’re doing our best to make sure that we don’t get monopolized by some out-of-state corporation.”

During the public comment section of the meeting, Addison County High Bailiff Dave Silberman said he’s confident that big corporations won’t be able to corner the market.

“We really do want to limit it and not allow corporate consolidation,” Silberman said. “So while we’ll be able to have folks come in from out of state and have big multi-state operators come in, they are going to be limited to that one store, or that one growing operation, or that one manufacturing facility.”

Not everyone has agreed with that assessment. Bishop Jethro James, pastor of Paradise Baptist Church in Newark, N.J., told True North in 2019 that he’s not convinced that Vermont growers can compete with the big companies. “You never can compete with the giants in this world,” he said.

Jessilyn Dolan, of the American Cannabis Nurses Association, said that for some groups, such as military personnel, applying for a medical marijuana card could mean taking the risk of losing other benefits.

“There are people who are literally worried about their life benefits if they put their name on a medical card,” she said.

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North. Send him news tips at bielawski82@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Jonathan Wilkins

20 thoughts on “Cannabis Control Board to pick director soon, will prioritize access to market based on race

  1. Excuse me Sen. Benning, but what the hell does “the Cannabis Control Board shall propose a plan for reducing or eliminating licensing fees for individuals from communities that historically have been disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition or individuals directly and personally
    impacted by cannabis prohibition.” mean ?

    You really think that your picking winners and losers in this completely new business is your right as a legislator. By helping “someone” that you think is disadvantaged is penalizing someone else. Are you proud of this ? What kind of arbitrary metrics are you going to use to decide who is disadvantaged ? You may be able to say it is not based on race, but please tell me then what the fee reductions are going to be based on. Facts please.

  2. The Vermont bureaucrats and politicians playing the race cards like gamblers at a casino – they are now addicted to it and can’t help themselves anymore. They can’t let go of it and it won’t let go of them. Pity

  3. Where’s the Black Lives Matter outrage at this stereotyping Blacks as druggies by whitey and rino’s just like they call them too dumb to get voter ID….

    Ray-sist much?????

  4. Re: The language ensures that skin color determines who gets priority for financial assistance to own a marijuana business. The Cannabis Control Board has discretion on granting licenses, including adjusting costs based on the applicant’s race. The distribution of low-interest loans also is based on race.”

    Well Michael, you’ve done it again. Spin. What’s your purpose in doing that? The word “race” does not appear anywhere in this bill’s provisions regarding who may be entitled to financial assistance. If you had sat in on any of the Senate Judiciary’s discussion regarding this subject, you would have known we purposefully noted that the color of one’s skin does not define who has, or has not, been impacted by cannabis prohibition. A poor white person from the Northeast Kingdom who was harmed by cannabis prohibition has just as much right as any other person of any color similarly impacted to apply for financial assistance. That’s why we used the term “social equity.” Although you quoted the language (which doesn’t use the word “race”) you neglected to quote the title. Here it is:

    Sec. 11. FEES; SOCIAL EQUITY
    When reporting to the General Assembly regarding recommended fees for
    licensing cannabis establishments pursuant to Sec. 4a of this act, the Cannabis
    Control Board shall propose a plan for reducing or eliminating licensing fees
    for individuals from communities that historically have been disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition or individuals directly and personally
    impacted by cannabis prohibition.

    The Senate Judiciary Committee PURPOSEFULLY chose NOT to use race as a qualifying factor! In spite of that, your article inflames the passion of readers by spinning the discussion into a race war. What in heaven’s name is your purpose in doing that?

    • Please Senator Benning, how about giving the people of Vermont a little credit……

      Your statement “individuals from communities that have been disproportionately impacted……” insults the intelligence of all Vermonters in describing the intent the subject law……Please, a little more respect is due.

    • There are a number of States that have already produced similar documents with nearly identical wording ‘member of a community disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of cannabis prohibition’.

      This is included in a Portland, Oregon document:

      ‘The SEED Grant Fund aims to aid, strengthen, and serve restorative justice, community reinvestment, and wealth creation in Black, Indigenous & Latino/a/xcommunities, which have been disproportionately impacted by over 80 years of cannabis prohibition laws.’

      Merely because the Senate Judiciary Committee chose NOT to mention race as a qualifying factor, that’s exactly how it’s interpreted by other communities and States. You know it, the Judiciary Committee knows it and we know it.

      Peter Yankowski is correct.

    • Well Mr. Benning it seems as though you explained it yourself.

      “Senate Judiciary Committee PURPOSEFULLY chose NOT to use race as a qualifying factor”

      This simply means that race WAS A FACTOR and it WAS CONSIDERED. You can’t hide you intention behind the use of purposefully confusing wording or because you say it isn’t a factor. Simply looking up the words “historically have been disproportionately impacted” on Google (https://www.google.com/search?q=historically+have+been+disproportionately+impacted) brings up mostly racial and ethnic issues discussed in all manners of government.

      You ensured that the Executive Director of Racial Equity was a board member thereby again proving that race was an issue that you did discuss and did put into this bill.

      You also in the bill itself were unable to define what a social equity applicant was and put it off until October 15th 2021 and you again ensured that race was front and center by ensuring the Executive Directory of Racial Equity was involved in the decision making.

      The primary racism that exists in VT works under a golden dome.

  5. Re: The language ensures that skin color determines who gets priority for financial assistance to own a marijuana business. The Cannabis Control Board has discretion on granting licenses, including adjusting costs based on the applicant’s race. The distribution of low-interest loans also is based on race.”

    Well Michael, you’ve done it again. Spin. What’s your purpose in doing that? The word “race” does not appear anywhere in this bill’s provisions regarding who may be entitled to financial assistance. If you had sat in on any of the Senate Judiciary’s discussion regarding this subject, you would have known we purposefully noted that the color of one’s skin does not define who has, or has not, been impacted by cannabis prohibition. A poor white person from the Northeast Kingdom who was harmed by cannabis prohibition has just as much right as any other person of any color similarly impacted to apply for financial assistance. That’s why we used the term “social equity.” Although you quoted the language (which doesn’t use the word “race”) you neglected to quote the title. Here it is:

    Sec. 11. FEES; SOCIAL EQUITY
    When reporting to the General Assembly regarding recommended fees for
    licensing cannabis establishments pursuant to Sec. 4a of this act, the Cannabis
    Control Board shall propose a plan for reducing or eliminating licensing fees
    for individuals from communities that historically have been disproportionately
    The Senate Judiciary Committee PURPOSEFULLY chose NOT to use race as a qualifying factor! In spite of that, your article inflames the passion of readers by spinning the discussion into a race war. What in heaven’s name is your purpose in doing that?

    • Come on Joe…you know this has everything to do with race..

      It all started with Kia Morris and was perpatrated by our Socialist gov. Flip Flop Scott..

      He took a woman that falsely claimed actions were taken against her… And he made her the head of a commission on racism..

      He then allows black lives matter, his MARXIST buddies, to paint the street in front of the golden doom…

      Then our dummy gov. Scott continues further with his stupidity and destruction calling Vermonters RACIST!

      And the butt kissers don’t have enough gumption to stand up for what is right.

      Look at the state of affairs in the USA today under the buffoon in charge…Joe Biden…Dummy Phil Scott voted for him…Scott is hell bent on the destruction of Vermont and with the help of the mindless he will achieve his goal.

      Time for you and the rest of the followers in state government to stand up and do what is right for constituents not the Marxist movement.

      If you and the rest of the followers would do the RIGHT thing you wouldn’t have to be so concerned about the truth being exposed.

      The state I was born and struggled to survive in is being destroyed by out of state ideology.

      I can’t thank people enough for having the common sense and stamina to print the TRUTH

      ALL LIVES MATTER!

      “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.” Those words, delivered by Martin Luther King Jr.Apr 4, 2018

  6. Looking for some racists? They run Montpelier!

    We’re not going to give any breaks for normal business, just drug dealing. And guess what if it goes sideways with the Feds guess who’s back in jail? It won’t be the white racist that set you up to be a drug dealer, that’s for sure.

    It’s amazing what people will believe is a good idea.

  7. Some more nonsense from Vermont Legislators under the ” Golden Doom ” yes doom !!

    So now we are basing a business on the color of your skin, wouldn’t that be ” racist ” ??
    if not, what If I get a deep dark tan can I stand in line to get the priority selection, or is that
    racist ??, it shouldn’t be according to our legislators, correct. And we all know that in today’s
    ” woke world ” you can be whatever you want to be, correct ??

    Or is it that our legislators believe that people of color, understand ” POT” distribution better
    than whites, because of the high volume of usage …… just asking !!

    So Vermont’s legislators is this the best we can do, and you wonder why the state is in such
    turmoil.

  8. It is the first racist government law that I am aware of since the civil war.
    It just shows you how bad those in power are. We need to vote in people who know how to keeps expenses in line and stop spending others people’s money.

  9. Republicans in name only are failing us all too frequently.

    Senator Benning finds it acceptable to sponsor RACISM in this bill!

    Joe Benning I’m surprised you didn’t call in Hunter Biden to help draft this bill.

    Our Socialist Governor Flip Flop Phil is in favor of this and his “Brown Nosed” sheep never fail him.

    Wasn’t it Scott who called Vermonters racist?

    What is more racist than this?

    This is a racist attack on Vermonters.

    We will either clean house in the next election or lose our state to the Socialists and Rhinos.

    Wake up Vermonters…We are under attack from all sides!

    • you are spot on Richard. I call VT California East but I think we are going even further to the left than even the socialists running that state. As progressive as Scott is I believe he will be the last “republican” to hold state-wide office in this socialist hell hole.

  10. Nothing like leveraging a stereotype of who’s the likely drug dealer in your neighborhood by skin color, and inverting it to push legal drug sales.
    As ever, the government is the only one allowed to sell drugs.
    This is SO racist and absolutely insulting, as is everything aimed at us stoopid y’umons as managed by government to make our lifes so called better.
    I’m pretty sure making this a priority this legislature is pretty telling on where our government’s priorities are: Divide and conquer (hopefully there will be good old fashioned drug wars out of this – funding the police again).
    You know…nothing nefarious here at all.
    Just good ole Uncle Tom laws. “Inexplicably kind to slave owners.” The government.
    And you gotta have the right color of skin to be called/culled back into slavery.
    Come one, come all.
    Hear ye, hear ye. But you must have the right color skin (and no Jamboree makeup, either).

    We’ve become what we always professed to detest as a collective in idiocy.
    Or, we’ve outsiders pushing and outside agenda.
    Your choice.

  11. Our legislators never fail to provide some comedic relief.
    Dick Sears quote-“If you had 70,000 to 80,000 Vermonters doing something that is illegal, [the law] needed to change,” he said, is todays highlight.
    I’ll bet a weeks pay more than 80,000 Vermonters exceed the posted speed limit- so shall the law change? Or the one I’d like to see- 80,000 Vermonters don’t want to pay taxes. The law needs to change!

    • you have something there. should we start a movement such as yielding for stop signs or exceeding the speed limits by say 10 MPH? If just having a relatively small amount doing it we could change the laws.

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