House committee approves bill prioritizing marijuana industry participation by skin color

By a 9-2 vote, lawmakers in the House Committee on Government Operations on Thursday approved a marijuana commercialization bill that uses race to prioritize grants and loan access, positions on boards, and more.

If S.25 becomes law, a Cannabis Control Board will determine who gets what resources and access to the marijuana industry, and Vermonters who are non-white get preferential treatment.

“When reporting to the General Assembly regarding recommended fees for licensing cannabis establishments pursuant to Sec. 5 of the 2019 Acts and Resolves No. 164, 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 text of the bill states.

BIPOC CANNABIS?: Current proposals for commercialized marijuana in Vermont prioritize access to various licenses by skin color.

In another section regarding “cannabis social equity programs,” the bill states that the money is “to provide low-interest rate loans and grants to social equity applicants to pay for ordinary and necessary expenses to start and operate a licensed cannabis establishment; to pay for outreach that may be provided or targeted to attract and support social equity applicants; and necessary costs incurred in administering the Fund.”

The two dissenting votes were from two Republicans on the committee, Rep. Samantha Lefebvre, R-Orange, and Rep. Mark Higley, R-Lowell.

Higley referenced a recent scandal involving the Champlain Valley Dispensary for Medical Marijuana that gave produce company Pete’s Greens more than 200 hemp plants that turned out to be marijuana with 21 percent THC. He also mentioned that the hemp industry appears to have an over-production problem.

Higley also noted that existing marijuana laws may be causing problems for medical marijuana groups.

“When we talk about some of the people who have been disproportionally impacted, I think from the testimony that we heard this morning that there are some of the medical marijuana groups out there that are being disproportionately impacted by cannabis legislation that we currently have,” he said.

Higley said he generally doesn’t support the bill, but thinks there’s “more that can be done in the medical marijuana realm.”

“I’m not convinced that things will go well for us down the road in terms of tax-and-regulate, so I will not be supporting S. 25,” he said.

Last year Vermont lawmakers and the governor approved S.54, which establishes a retail marijuana market by fall 2022. This bill established the yet-to-be appointed Cannabis Control Board, which is responsible for “adopting regulations and administering a licensing program.” Five different types of licenses regarding marijuana commercialization will include cultivator, product manufacturer, wholesaler, retailer and testing laboratory.

On Town Meeting Day, 34 Vermont towns chose not to put any questions on their ballots that would allow local pot shops.  According to the language of this bill, those towns default to pro-retail status without a vote. Towns have until 2023 to vote on the issue.

Vermont policymakers were forewarned at a public hearing in Burlington in 2019 that commercialization efforts would ultimately lead to giant marijuana companies easily beating out Vermont-growers for the majority of its citizens’ dollars.

“You never can compete with the giants in this world,” said Bishop Jethro James, pastor of Paradise Baptist Church in Newark, N.J.

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

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Chmee2 and Wikimedia Commons/Aleks

14 thoughts on “House committee approves bill prioritizing marijuana industry participation by skin color

  1. Calling John Klar: Can’t someone challenge this in court to stop it? How is it that this blatantly unconstitutional racism goes unchecked and unchallenged? I’d love to see an article by you that outlines how this gets smacked down in adult court.

  2. “disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition” People who obey laws are “disproportionately impacted” by laws. People who pay taxes are disproportionately affected by wasteful government spending. And prioritizing marijuana industry participation by skin color is racist. An airline is hiring pilots based on race – That’s crazier than hiring pro basketball players based on race.

  3. Hmm. Should this bill become law, does that make Vermont taxpayer complicit in a conspiracy to sell and distribute a controlled substance? the Federal government still considers marijuana a controlled substance. If one were to “invest” in other controlled substances, surely the federal government would file criminal charges against those involved. The legislature seeks to use tax dollars, both federal and state for administration, grants and loans. Try this out on your own- and you’ll be charged with criminal conspiracy. Yet the legislature, in their greed and need for more revenue seeks to use public funds to promote what is illegal. Are Vermont taxpayers liable as “investors”?
    Does the fact that certain “races” shall be given priority for licensing, grants and loans make this any less absurd?

  4. I have lived in Vermont for seventy years, and I thought I had seen and heard it all,
    until I read this article !!

    So this ” so-called ” board, is going to prioritize grants and loans on the color of your
    ” skin “, so Vermonters who are ” non-white ” get preferential treatment, that sounds
    really racist to me……

    You can put all sorts of people, in office or on boards all day long, educated or not, but
    if they don’t have any common sense or understanding “especially ” of the laws, one
    has to ask themselve, where did we get this gaggle of fools ???

    I’m not sure who has the least intelligence, this board or the people who elected them,
    when I mention Montpelier and the ” Golden Doom ” this says it all, we are doomed !!

    Vermont has a cancer ” Liberals ” in charge……….. God Help Us !!

  5. This bill is wrong on so many fronts. You don’t combat supposed racism by being racist. You don’t steer a race into developing an industry that is harmful to society and besides, how condescending it is to assume a segment of our population based on color can’t succeed on their own! This whole subject shows the lack of character and intelligence of the entire lot who voted for it.

  6. For the last 71 years I have been living in a color blind non racist country and now the elected officials want to turn us into a racist country??? Why does it seem like all our elected officials have no brains??? Most likely they couldn’t get a real job and would have to “work”…

  7. If you replace “black” with “white” and you’d consider it to be racist, then it’s racist the way you wrote it.

  8. So while we are talking about racism, and who is looking for the better interests. Let’s look at Black Lives Matter and their demands, from their own website. Please remember they say they are for the minority. Check this out…DOES THIS HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH HELPING MINORITIES? OR IS IT CLEARLY AN ASSAULT UPON OUR REPUBLIC BY MARXISTS.


    BLM’s 7 Demands
    1. Convict and ban Trump from future political office:
    We are joining Rep. Ilhan Omar, Rep. Ayanna Pressley, Rep. Cori Bush, Rep. Jamaal Bowman, and others who are demanding Trump be immediately convicted in the United States Senate. Trump must also be banned from holding elected office in the future. Call your members of Congress and demand they support conviction by dialing (202) 224-3121.

    2. Expel Republican members of Congress who attempted to overturn the election and incited a white supremacist attack:
    More than half the Republican representatives and multiple senators stoked Trump’s conspiracy theories and encouraged the white supremacists to take action to overturn the election. We are supporting Rep. Cori Bush’s resolution to expel them from Congress for their dangerous and traitorous actions. We also support steps to bar them from seeking another office.

    3. Launch a full investigation into the ties between white supremacy and the Capitol Police, law enforcement, and the military:
    The Capitol was able to be breached and overrun by white supremacists attempting to disrupt a political process that is fundamental to our democracy. We know that police departments have been a safe haven for white supremacists to hide malintent behind a badge, because the badge was created for that purpose. We also know off-duty cops and military were among the mob at the Capitol on January 6th. Guilty parties need to be held accountable and fired. We are supporting Rep. Jamaal Bowman’s COUP Act to investigate these connections.

    4. Permanently ban Trump from all digital media platforms:
    Trump has always used his digital media platforms recklessly and irresponsibly to spread lies and disinformation. Now it is clearer than ever that his digital media is also used to incite violence and promote its continuation. He must be stopped from encouraging his mob and further endangering our communities, even after inauguration.

    5. Defund the police:
    The police that met our BLM protestors this summer with assault rifles, teargas, and military-grade protective gear were the same police that, on Wednesday, met white supremacists with patience and the benefit of the doubt, going so far as to pose for selfies with rioters. The contrast was jarring, but not for Black people. We have always known who the police truly protect and serve. D.C. has the most police per capita in the country; more funding is not the solution.

    6. Don’t let the coup be used as an excuse to crack down on our movement:
    In response to the coup, Politicians have already introduced the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act of 2021. We’ve seen this playbook before. These laws are used to target Black and brown communities for heightened surveillance. Republicans are already busy trying to create an equivalence between the mob on January 6th and our Freedom Summer. We don’t need new domestic terror laws, facial recognition, or any other new police power for the state. Our government should protect righteous protest and stay focused on the real issue: rooting out white supremacy. There are enough laws, resources, and intelligence, but they were not used to stop the coup. Our elected officials must uncover why.

    7. Pass the BREATHE Act:
    The police were born out of slave patrols. We cannot reform an institution built upon white supremacy. We need a new, radical approach to public safety and community investment. President Biden has already drawn on the BREATHE Act in his executive actions calling for racial equity screens in federal programs, investing in environmental justice at historic levels, and engaging with system-impacted communities. The BREATHE Act paints a vision of a world where Black lives matter through investments in housing, education, health, and environmental justice.

  9. Thought this was a joke when first saw it. Sadly it isn’t. How stupid can these people be? This is clearly racist and simply beyond belief. This is why I own and will NEVER surrender my firearms.

  10. Perhaps the most racist bill to ever pass Vermont.

    We put those who’ve been disadvantaged first in line to become drug dealers? Not a plumber, doctor lawyer or electrician.

    No this bill says you’re too stupid for those, and even to be a drug dealer. But we’ll put you first in line to be drug dealers, if anything goes wrong who are they going to lock up or sue?

    Who’s family ever prospered from doing drugs? Vermont is on the wrong path.

    • Right on! You are a strong voice of common sense here. But the Progs just Do Not Care. I don’t understand them at all, but this is so stupid as to be indefensible under any reasonable circumstance!

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