On Monday evening, the journey towards legal cannabis sales in Vermont passed a significant milestone as Governor Phil Scott announced his long-awaited appointees for the Vermont Cannabis Control Board (CCB), the three-member board that will propose, implement, and enforce the most important details that will shape and govern Vermont’s adult use and medical cannabis programs.
The basic details are covered well in Xander Landen’s article for VTDigger, which you should read and support. To quote my close personal friend and fellow felonious blogger, RA of Barstool Sports — not a big deal — here are “a few more buds for your bowl”:
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- This group has tremendous power in proposing the specific sizes, cost, and application requirements for all licensees: small cultivator, integrated, testing lab, cultivator, manufacturing, wholesale, and retail.
- Details will still have to be approved by the Legislature in 2022, who don’t have power over the board as an executive branch entity. The goal for everyone, especially considering the late start, is that there’s some kind of communication between the board and a few cannabis-conscious legislative leaders who can help shape recommendations along the way and quickly rubber-stamp the final product.
- The board was selected by a Governor who’s consistently fought against cannabis reform and the Chair has been prosecuting criminals, not enriching them. HOWEVA, there’s not necessarily a reason to assume that board members have a negative bias or that this board will be a political body…for example, nobody seems to care who runs the Department of Liquor Control as long as cash flows.
- The board will also take over the medical program, but it probably still won’t be a priority and there’s a good to likely chance that the medical program effectively merges into the adult use program. Theoretically, one would think the state would prioritize the thousands of sick people who pay the state a registration fee and their privacy for the right to purchase cannabis from a cabal of corporate dispensaries; however, the fledgling for-profit medical dispensaries’ stated priority is entering the adult use market, which they — and the Vermont Legislature — believe they’re entitled to enter first. Having a medical card in Vermont could just mean that patients can purchase higher THC products than the current prohibition (flower >30% and concentrates >60%), and/or purchase tax-free.
- There are strong conflict of interest policies in place, but Vermont is a small town, so surely everyone will be paying close attention to who gets what licenses first, and if the application process is transparent and equitable, or if it’s all about who you know.
- Just like the medical dispensaries, the Chair of the Control Board also got his start working under Governor Peter Shumlin and over the last decade has been a nearly-full-time State House occupant who very likely knows the landscape, if not the details, of Vermont cannabis politics.
- Never having spoken to the Chair, my own take is that he’s a smart and relatively young Vermont political professional who both knows where a ton of bodies are buried and has paid a ton of dues to have some power of his own. However bold or conservative he and his peers turn out to be, they’ve all got a blank slate to start and as the first-of-their-kind, a good amount of leeway in my book…and since this board isn’t going anywhere for these crucial next three years, it’s definitely worth being patient.
- Finally, I see people already complaining about lack of cannabis industry experience, to which I say: “c’mon, what’d you really think?”…while I’m optimistic that the individuals involved are competent enough to make up for starting eleven weeks late, it wouldn’t be a shocker if the process passed into law by Act 164 continues to be delayed. A board seated in early January was expected to produce their first significant report in April (three months), meaning that this board seated in early April would theoretically produce the same result in July…we’ll see.
GOVERNOR PHIL SCOTT ANNOUNCES APPOINTMENTS TO CANNABIS CONTROL BOARD
Montpelier, Vt. – Governor Phil Scott announced today that he has appointed James Pepper of Montpelier, Julie Hulburd of Colchester and Kyle Harris of Montpelier to the Cannabis Control Board (CCB).
“The Board will play a critical role in ensuring public safety, equity and fairness while implementing this new market,” said Governor Phil Scott. “James, Julie and Kyle bring diverse and relevant experience to the CCB and I’m confident they will hit the ground running when they get to work in the coming days.”
The CCB was created by Act 164 of 2020 for the purpose of safely, equitably and effectively implementing and administering the laws and rules regulating adult-use cannabis in Vermont. It is responsible for establishing, administering and regulating a cannabis regulatory system for commercial cannabis cultivators, wholesalers, product manufacturers, retailers and testing laboratories.
The CCB will also take over responsibility for the regulation of medical cannabis dispensaries and the administration of the medical cannabis registry, currently administered by the Vermont Department of Public Safety.
About the appointees:
James Pepper, Chair
James Pepper currently serves as a deputy state’s attorney for the Department of State’s Attorneys and Sheriffs. In this role, Pepper has worked on several criminal justice reform initiatives, including bail reform, expungement eligibility, Justice Reinvestment, use of force standards for law enforcement officers, and the expansion of juvenile jurisdiction.
Pepper also serves on the Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice System Advisory Panel, the CHINS Reform Advisory Panel, the Juvenile Justice Advisory Panel, the Act 148 Working Group, and the Sentencing Commission. Prior to joining the Department, Pepper worked for former Governor Peter Shumlin as director of intergovernmental affairs and senior policy advisor, where he worked on relevant cannabis issues.
Pepper received his bachelor’s degree in political science from Johns Hopkins University and his J.D. from Vermont Law School. He and his wife Aly live in Montpelier with their identical twin boys, Beau and Wesley.
Julie Hulburd currently serves as the human resources director at the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation and has over twenty years of Human Resources experience, including 12 years in municipal government. In her last municipal government role, Julie worked closely with leadership on the city’s diversity, equity, and inclusion goals.
Hulburd was appointed to the State Ethics Commission in 2018 and has served as its chair since 2019. She has also served as a member of her local parks and recreation advisory board, a justice of the peace and on the select board.
Hulburd has a bachelor’s degree from Northern Vermont University-Johnson. She also holds a Professional in Human Resources Certification from the Human Resources Certification Institute and is a Certified Professional with the Society for Human Resources Management. She regularly volunteers for the Vermont Brain Injury Association’s Walk for Thought, at the local Night to Shine event and the Miss Vermont Scholarship Organization.
Kyle Harris has served as an agriculture development specialist at the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) since 2019. In this role, he has focused on emerging issues and economic development. His work has focused on dairy innovation, maple initiatives and hemp business development. He has worked closely with the Agency of Commerce and Community Development as a liaison between agencies to facilitate policy and economic discussion throughout Vermont’s agriculture portfolio. Most recently, he aided in development of Vermont’s Agriculture and Food System Strategic Plan 2021-2030.
Previous to his role with VAAFM, Harris served as the associate counsel for environmental affairs at the Corn Refiners Association in Washington, DC, where his work focused on improving the environmental footprint at both ends of the supply chain, from grower relations to growth in plant-based products and 21st century uses for agricultural feedstocks
Harris has a bachelor’s degree in history from the College of Charleston, and a J.D. & Master of Environmental Law & Policy from Vermont Law School. He has a license to practice law in Maryland. He lives in Montpelier with his wife Cate.