February 5, 2016

Cannabis Legislation Hesitates on Home Grown Provisions

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Montpellier (Feb. 5) – On Friday morning, the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs heard testimony regarding regulation and workforce issues related to the legalization of marijuana.

Among those testifying, Bill Lofy, representing Vermont Cannabis Collaborative, provided arguments for the economic development incentives related to moving forward on legalization. However, a sticking point that still exists in the bill being considered in the legislature is the condition that prohibits home-growers and significantly limits small-scale production of cannabis.

Lofy conceded that from a purely regulatory perspective, allowing an oligopoly system of control, with a handful of large producers dominating the market would be ideal in terms of simplicity of oversight. However, with the consideration of the Vermont brand, an approach to legalization that fosters a culture of craft growers, much like the thriving craft brewery industry, would be much more beneficial to the overall economic health and productivity of the state.

Lofy suggested that the bill proceed as is, with consideration for amendments that would give permission to personal and small growers when “the market matures.” He advised that within 2-3 years of legalization the state would be better positioned to incorporate an amendment allowing for homegrown marijuana.

A subsequent testimony from Emily Amanna was directly opposed to Lofy’s suggestion to phase in homegrown provisions to the marijuana legalization bill. As a small-scale farmer and member of VT Home Grown, Amanna argued that cannabis cultivation represents a huge economic and agricultural opportunity for small farmers to diversify their crops and revenue streams. Leaving them out of the equation, and handing the emergent industry over to a few large producers at the outset, would be a mistake in her eyes.

She requested that the committee consider adding an amendment to the current bill that would make licenses for small-scale production available and affordable to encourage a climate of artisan producers in the state. She concluded by arguing that, “if we are going to legalize cannabis, we need to legalize it for everyone and provide opportunities for equity” in the market.

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