On Thursday, August 20, roughly 50 Vermonters crowded into a (mercifully cool) room downstairs at the Catamount Performing Arts Center in St. Johnsbury, VT, to listen and share input with representatives from the Vermont Cannabis Collaborative. The group, VTCC was represented by Will Raap and Hinda Miller, who shared an update of their research and outreach process regarding the impending cannabis industry in Vermont. Originally described as an, 'Entrepreneurial Dream Team' by Seven Days, the group members are donating their time to setting up working groups to collect information from industry/policy experts across the nation, and those most familiar with the various industries--regulated and unregulated--here in Vermont.
The session itself was lightly advertised, but still drew the attention of a VPR reporter and Kingdom Access TV, who will be broadcasting the forum in it's entirety--thank you to Ian & Brian for letting me set up around you. The video above is a short highlight video, but I encourage you to watch the whole thing in it's entirety and see what engaged Vermonters are saying. Feel free to drop me any feedback via twitter, instagram, facebook, youtube, or a good ole fashion email. Thank you again to CheckerBerry Brook Farm on Rt. 2 in Plainfield, for letting me grab some footage of their beautiful farm stand!
The early discussion started with a presentation from the aforementioned members of the VTCC Steering Committee--they had come prepared with brochures that outlined the group's guiding values, timeline, and division of issues into working groups (Industry, Business Development, Finance/Professional Services, Legislative).
There were several NEK legislators present, including Senator Joe Benning (R-Caledonia-Orange). Senator Benning did an excellent job moderating the discussion and answering questions directed at him and regarding the VT Senate, even when those (correct) answers were: "We don't know yet, but that's something we'll all be looking at and discussing". The audience learned that Benning, Senator Jeannette White (D-Windham) and other members of the Government Operations committee of the Senate will be hearing testimony in November.
The forum was also attended by two uniformed St. Johnsbury Police Officers, who declined to speak publicly, but stayed for the entire forum. Not sure if it was coincidental, but they arrived at the event with a K9 car, sans dog...just a little ;) reminder...I'm not sure if anyone else saw them pull in, but I couldn't help but smirk.
All in all, it was a great discussion and a great sign for inclusive discussions about legalization in VT. Great to see the leadership of VTCC walking the walk with public outreach, to have legislators engaged and actively listening, and to have advocates and regular Vermonters all engaged and discussing the future of cannabis in Vermont. The next VTCC public forum is September 1 from 5-7pm at the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, VT. As always, contact me with feedback or questions @Vermontijuana and via email at firstname.lastname@example.org