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To Kim Watson and the members of the Cannabis Control Board Advisory Committee Subcommittee on Lab Standards and Product Safety:
I am the Director of Regulatory Affairs with Medicinal Genomics Corp. (MGC), which is an industry leader in cannabis and pathogen genomics. Before I joined MGC, I was a Program Manager at the New Jersey Department of Health Public Health and Environmental Laboratories for 20 years (2001 to 2021).
In 2012, I was the Project Manager that started the first cannabis testing lab in NJ. From 2017-2020, I was the Project Manager that created and maintained the Compendium of the All States Medical Cannabis Program required testing of the various analytes with their corresponding action levels. Comparative analyses were performed to identify trends and gaps; especially in microbial and pesticide testing. In 2019-2020, I was the Project Manager to validate microbial testing of cannabis for NJ's Medical Cannabis Program.
The document that I have shared with you are MGC's recommendations for modifications to your required microbial cannabis testing rules.
If you have any questions, please contact me.
I thank you for your time and consideration.
- Sherman Hom, Hamilton
Could the markets for cannabis be controlled by the State as is high alcohol beverages? Small growers could sell to the state and then testing could assure a safe product before distribution to retailers and medical dispensaries. The old vertical monopolies of the Dispensaries would have to terminate. Phillip Morris, Coco Cola and Budweiser would not have the opportunity to flood the market with imported (to Vermont) products.
- Joe McSherry, Richmond
Triple Prong Approach:
- Social Equity Applications automatically receive priority review (all social equity applications reviewed and awarded prior to review of non social equity applicants)
- (Cultivation Licensees) Allowed to sell wholesale to MMJ dispensaries and Integrated licensees immediately upon licensure
- (Dispensaries) 25% of cannabis products purchased from Social Equity Licensees
- Waiving of license/application fees
- Additional licenses awarded based on demonstrated capacity (ie. If delivery becomes available, and licensee has a car and able to hire employee, licensee immediately given delivery license)
- Reduce cost burden of bringing on additional employees via subsidizing of costs normally associated with hiring (ie healthcare, payroll, workers comp insurance premiums, etc.)
- Immediate re-sentencing and record expungement of nonviolent cannabis offenses, in addition the CCB should join the cannabis community in asking/petitioning the legislature to include nonviolent felony cannabis charges available for expungement.
- Subsidize purchases of green technology (ie. LED lights, solar power) beyond extant rebates
- Social Equity General Fund generated from cannabis sales tax revenue and reinvested into social equity businesses (operational expenses, start up costs, etc)
- Eligibility for fund to be reviewed after 3 years of participation in program
- Utilize percent of cannabis tax revenue to generate a Cannabis Workforce Development Program. Funds would go to training program to jumpstart the skilled labor pool available in Vermont
- this would allow legacy operators and those currently incarcerated an avenue into the legal cannabis industry
- would make sure that as market matures, we will have diverse artisans and scientists available to hire, improving market quality as a whole, similar to M4MM PREEP plan"
- Zachary Tyson
As you're moving forward with your work, I'd like to encourage you to address the issue of towns being required to opt IN to having a cannabis business in their community.
I've always felt this was a deeply misguided part of the legislation. While I know Vermont has dry towns like Thetford, it seems to me that it comes down to whether or not cannabis sales are legal in this state.
If cannabis sales are legal statewide - and indeed, they will be - then it should be legal everywhere by default. It should be up to the towns to opt OUT, not to rely on a cumbersome process and volunteer activists to get the town to opt in.
Whether this rule can be changed by you, the CCB, or whether it takes another act of legislation, I think it's on you all to fix this, not the members of the cannabis community.
Thank you for your time and service.
- Kathryn Blume, Charlotte
My name is Rolf Parker, and I work as a researcher for the tobacco control program. As such, I have accumulated information relevant to heavy metal exposure from carts.
As I assume you are aware, THC has to be heated to higher temps than nicotine in order to create the aerosol that is inhaled. These higher temperatures which the metal coils get to, result in higher concentrations of heavy metals in the aerosol, according to research by Ana Rule at Johns Hopkins University. Different devices produce very different levels of heavy metal contamination, strongly suggesting regulation of these devices could save consumers from heavy metal exposure.
The theory that inhaling heavy metals, including cobalt, could be harmful to users was demonstrated in a case study of a woman who vaped THC for 6 months, and now has "cobalt lung". See link above to read the medical case study.
Here is an excerpt from the Leafly article re lead, which is NOT in coils, but has been found in aerosols. "Since January 1 in California, all legal cannabis vape carts are subject to stringent new testing for heavy metals, including lead. Labs are reporting that some percentage of vape carts are showing a concerning amount of lead."
"That's a problem, because the Centers for Disease Control has found that there is no safe level of exposure to lead. It's a neurotoxin that can decrease IQ, as well as sicken and kill you. The US and other countries have spent decades throttling lead exposures - banning lead paint, leaded gasoline, and other sources."
Finally, California does not test for all heavy metals that have been found in aerosols by researchers. For example, chromium, nickel and cobalt are all used to make vape coils, are known to pose threats to human lungs, and have been detected in levels that exceed MRLs in new studies at Johns Hopkins. These metals should be included in state regulations in Vermont, even if they are not currently in the list of metals tested for in California and Colorado. See last paragraph of https://www.europeanpharmaceuticalreview.com/article/151190/measurement-of-heavy-metals-in-cannabis-vaping-aerosols-a-practical-assessment/2/
Excerpt: ""So what should be included in a panel of elements for ECDS aerosols? Clearly the point of testing vaping devices is to find out what toxic substances are being corroded and transported to the user. Assuming the cannabinoid extracts have been tested for the state required panel and are below the maximum allowable limits, if any of these other elements show up in the device aerosol, they will most probably have come from the vaping process. It would therefore be perfectly valid to include all the likely metal candidates to the regulated list for the state, based on the design of the vaping device, but it is not yet clear what limits should be set for those additional elements.""
I would strongly recommend talking with Dr. Ana Rule, from Johns' Hopkins, who wrote the article this summary is based on.
Here are links to other relevant articles.
Thank you for considering my comments, and I hope you might reach out to Dr. Rule.
- Rolf Parker, Brattleboro
September 10, 2021
It seems that the decisions about cannabis are being made by folks who have no background or interest with the subject other than to make money. THC caps, poor medical access, low plant number allowances and seeking “counsel” from large, out of state bodies, all speak to who is actually benefiting. It’s not Vermont citizens. It’s local politicians and big companies. The original bill and any proposals need a complete overhaul if Vermonters are going to enjoy the health and medicinal benefits, community, economic opportunities, amnesty, and quality that are directly connected to a robust cannabis bill. What has currently been written is nothing less than a slap in the face to generations of Vermonters and not something that anyone should be proud of. Shame.
- John Rooney, Morristown
September 13, 2021
My wife and I plan to start a small cultivator business. Currently, the integrated licenses are required to source 25 percent of their product from small cultivators only between August and October 2022. This should be the rule for 2022 and beyond.
- Michael Shane, South Strafford
To The State of Vermont Cannabis Control Board;
My name is Ryan Abernathy. I am the CEO/President of Xtracted Laboratories based in Seattle Washington. Our popular brands, Refine, Northwest Concentrates, and Northeast Concentrates are currently being produced and sold in Alaska, California, Maine, and Washington State. As a hydrocarbon processor working in multiple states, I would highly encourage the inclusion of hydrocarbons as allowable solvents to be used for cannabis extraction. There are significant benefits to Butane and Propane extractions;
- Product Diversity- A wide variety of some of the most popular products efficiently and safely produced using hydrocarbons. Live Resin, Wax, Sauce, Budder, Diamonds, Crumble, Sap, Isolate, and Distillate, to name a few. These are often some of the most versatile and practical as stand-alone products or as a highly consistent base for edibles or cartridges, both of which are trendy categories in adult-use markets.
- Safety- In a regulated laboratory setting, hydrocarbon extractors operate at extremely low psi (often less than 150psi) in closed-loop systems (hydrocarbons not exposed to an outside environment) with safety equipment and measures in place. The hydrocarbons used in this process, propane and butane, are generally regarded as safe (GRAS) by the FDA.
- Black Market- High-use individuals usually favor these products. They are also frequently the most expensive products by weight in adult-use retail stores. When done in non-regulated environments, this process can be highly hazardous. Before regulation, there were dangerous explosions in my home state of Washington where even a local mayor lost his life to an explosion caused by an illegal extraction. By including hydrocarbons as regulated solvents, you can ensure a high level of safety and regulation will occur anywhere extractions are. You will also have the most popular products available in the adult-use market versus forcing this customer to the black market. Vermont is well known for producing locally sourced and manufactured high quality, craft products. This would allow for cannabis processors to continue this tradition.
- Testing- By including these products, which can be mandated to ensure the product was processed correctly and is safe to offer to the public for consumption. Required tests should consist of but not be limited to Residual Solvents, total Cannabinoids, as well as Terpenes.
- Ryan Abernathy, Seattle WA
September 18, 2021
One of my favorite sayings is "fair is not always equal." I apply this to all of my life including how I raise my children and how I run my business. I would love to see this applied formally in our VT cannabis community. We do this insane thing with medical marijuana. We give qualified people permission to access medical marijuana and then we overlook the fact that many of these people are the same people who rely on disability benefits to survive. Disability benefits do not provide enough funding to support the cost of medical cannabis products. Many of these people live in government housing where you aren't allowed to cultivate cannabis. I personally provide gifted products to certain individuals who can not utilize medical marijuana due to the cost. I am advocating for them when I say medical marijuana is not financially obtainable to many who NEED it and can't manage their own crop. This is a problem, and it is one of the things I strive to help fix in this system. I have a ton of great ideas, I hope soon we can work on this together. Cannabis should not be financially unobtainable to anyone who relies on or benefits from it, just to be "well" from one day to the next.
Additionally, I currently test for potency of my baked goods in my home. I would love the opportunity to be able to grow and become a formal test lab but likely won't be able to afford it. I hope testing is affordable in our future legal market, without affordable testing small Vermont businesses will not be able to stay afloat. I also think cannabis baked items should follow the same guidelines and testing practices that non-cannabis kitchen entities have to follow. It would be really cool if the state helped folks like me be able to afford to enter the field as a testing lab. Maybe open some funding programs for such? I also think some of the cannabis taxes paid by entities in the future legal market should go to lab/cannabis science grants for local entities so we are always supporting Vermont based cannabis entities first. Thanks
- Kelli Story, Greensboro Bend
September 21, 2021
Hello, As a personal cannabis grower, I have questions regarding the minimum size for commercial growing, as well as the permitting process if I wanted to grow for others use. I am sure that there are many in my position who might like to sell a bit of their crop but really have no idea how to go about it. Will there be a venue for micro growers and boutique growers? Just like maple syrup production there is a range of sized operations. This only seems appropriate. It also seems that the permit cost should be commensurate with the size of the operation. As a part timer, I may only grow five pounds to sell. It's not much but would pay my taxes. Is this possible? Some small growers have a lot of experience but little knowledge of large scale and expensive practices. Vermont has always focused on the small guy. It would be great if this was the same. Thanks!
- Gregory Camera, Glover
My name is Ron Williams, and along with my partner here Max Eingorn and our third co-founder Zach Tyson make up Mr. Z Craft Cannabis. Mr. Z is a majority black owned cultivator based in Middlebury, VT (where we currently live and work full-time), and we practice sustainable, organic growing techniques. We've come today to ask the committee not to include the requirement of one year residency year prior to licensure for social equity applicants, and to modify it to simply require state residency - period.
We believe that the committee should ensure that not only is the Vermont cannabis market equitable, but that it remains attractive for young, diverse communities that are currently underrepresented in the state. It is no secret that Vermont is not only faced with a dearth of people of color, but also of young working people. A one-year residency requirement for social equity applicants could prevent us, and other young people of color, from moving to this state and establishing long, fulfilling lives as Vermont cannabis entrepreneurs.
As an example, my partners and I are childhood friends from New York City - notably, at the height of "stop and frisk", a policy that has personally affected me. We attended colleges in and bordering Vermont, where we fell in love with the state. Faced with massive student loans and one of the worst job markets in American history, we did what we were "supposed to do" and pursued relatively well-paying careers in tech, finance, and law. We are self-funded, with help from friends and family, and we do NOT accept venture capital. This meant we had an extremely difficult time finding a location (without the use of a mortgage), paying for construction, and other crucial steps in the process of establishing a business. On top of that, this state is currently experiencing a housing crisis. To have to deal with a one-year residency requirement would be a serious barrier to entry at this point in any young company and young PERSON's journey.
The three of us moved here to pursue our passions, to become active participants within the Vermont cannabis community and our local communities, and to immerse ourselves in the beauty of this state. It would be a shame to see us, and other young people that look like us, prevented from participating in the Vermont cannabis market. In fact, we have friends who would like to come up and participate but need more assurance that there will be a place for them. We hope that this committee does the right thing and makes this a truly inclusive market for all. Thank you.
- Ron Williams, Middlebury
September 23, 2021
To the Cannabis Control Board (CCB) and the Market Structure, Licensing, Taxes, and Fees Sub-Committee,
To meet the demand of an adult-use market while ensuring there is not a vast surplus of product, Vermont's adult-use cannabis industry will require a range of canopy sizes. It is the recommendation of the Vermont Cannabis Trades Association (VCTA) that the largest canopy size permitted should be 20,000 square feet (SF).
Vermont (VT) has the advantage of looking across the country at other state's cultivation tiers within adult-use markets. While 20,000 SF may initially sound like a large amount of space, imposing a maximum canopy size of 20,000 SF is in fact in alignment with VT's goal of establishing an inclusive adult-use cannabis industry. On a national scale, 20,000 SF is small in comparison to states like Massachusetts where the maximum canopy size allowed is 100,000 SF or California where 10,001-22,000 SF is considered a medium license size.
Canopy sizes that are large enough to allow for efficiencies while also supporting the legislature's goal of an inclusive market are critical. As we have seen in other states, without sufficient canopy there are massive supply shortages. If VT intends to satisfy the previously established revenue goals of the state, canopy sizes that are supportive of those goals must be permitted. Simply put, cultivators need to be able to grow enough product at economies of scale to support the program. The tax revenue from the program has been allocated to imperative initiatives such as prevention education and afterschool programs - and we want to see funding become available to those programs as soon as possible.
Below are items for consideration while determining canopy specifications based on the experiences of the vertically integrated licenses represented by VCTA.
Facilities of 10,000 SF and more invite economies of scale that allow capital investments in green energy and energy efficiency. Operating an indoor grow facility has substantial fixed costs that decrease on a square foot basis as you scale. For instance - one only needs a single nutrient injection system or environmental control system regardless of whether one is operating 10,000 SF or 20,000 SF of canopy. At 20,000 SF, savings will be gained that can be redeployed into energy-efficient HVAC and lighting systems, solar, and carbon offsets. Operating at a smaller scale would make these investments unfeasible.
Those same economies of scale result in increased compensation and benefits. Reducing fixed costs on a square foot basis allows for higher compensation and benefits - the square foot of canopy increases per full time employee (FTE) as a facility scales. For example - you only need one employee to mix and monitor nutrient delivery regardless of whether one is operating 10,000 or 20,000 SF. Since variable costs will inevitably rise over time, a larger facility is better poised to offer wage increases and offset increases to health care coverage, so this cost is not borne by employees.
Larger facilities allow integrated licenses to purchase from more craft growers and support the ecosystem of Vermont cannabis producers. Counter-intuitively, having a larger facility results in medical license's ability to support more craft growers. Much of the house-grown indoor flower is slated for biomass extraction, while a substantial portion of garden-variety flower (which commands a premium price per pound) is slated to be purchased from craft growers. A smaller, 10,000 SF canopy would result in integrated licenses growing most garden variety flower and seeking to purchase bulk biomass on the open market for a significantly lower price per pound. Moreover, integrated licenses would seek to purchase bulk biomass from just a few vendors while planning on purchasing garden variety flower from at least 1/2 dozen craft growers, potentially more as the market allows.
- Vermont Cannabis Trade Association
I wanted to address the size of the grow canopy. Lots of talk around 1000sq ft of total canopy and that would be great for the small craft cultivator. I do think having an additional tier coming out of the gate will allow folks to have the opportunity that would like to be vertically integrated an opportunity to do that AND most importantly be profitable. A 1000sqft total canopy doesn't allow that to happen as so much of that space will be for vegetative growth. I think a minimum of 2k sq ft would be ideal to allow for mishaps/ and other issues but allow for the chance to make a living and support employees as well and afford the business a chance to make a profit in year one. I'd like to a license that allows unto 2000sq ft of flower canopy as an option as well.
- Matt Leonetti, Richmond
September 24, 2021
During the last meeting, it was referenced that the Dept of Agriculture would be asked to assist in monitoring indoor and outdoor grows for compliance. However, it seems to be that cannabis is still not being considered agriculture? How does the this make sense? Also, for folks involved in the Farm Viability program through UVM (-- where 51% of the mortgage must be covered through agricultural production on the property--) this is another financial limitation in attempting to maintain agricultural acreage.
- Christian Holland, Greensboro Bend
What stops a farmer from clipping his best plant/product to be tested. There is no continuity in chain of custody. The state has to allow laboratories or state mandated officials to collect samples and transport to be tested. Caretakers could be given a coupon (food stamp type of service) this coupon could be used at participating labs to test their treatment plants.
- Yearim Plantillas, Peoria
September 27, 2021
Please can we avoid this in Vermont ! Article I just read about this Black women, Marne Madison said she's just about done trying to open a dispensary in Missouri.
The former president of Missouri's chapter of Minorities for Medical Marijuana was denied two licenses in the state's fledgling program, one for her own dispensary, the other for cultivation as part of a collective. She said she lost $70,000 just putting together her dispensary license application.
Knowing that they would have to compete for a limited number of licenses, many applicants paid top dollar to consultants with experience in legal marijuana markets for help with applications and detailed business and security plans. Madison, a hotel night auditor at the time, also used savings to lease an empty building for months to show she had a location ready for operation.
Like many who were denied, she said high costs and license caps created an industry accessible only to those with money and connections. She's disappointed that she doesn't see more Black-owned marijuana businesses, given the disproportionate impact of the War on Drugs on communities of color.
- Joseph Varga, Burlington
Great job on tackling what you guys have been dealt, I'm commenting today in regards to single use electronics and concentrate cartridges. As written in act 164 it states only prefilled prepackaged could be potentially sold but realistically that's alot of waste because nothing is re-usable all the way to the packaging. My question is that how come as long as it's tested and regulated, that a retailer couldn't refill cartridges that still have plenty of life in them and eliminate almost all of the waste. A good example is that of a craft brewer refilling growlers. Thank you.
- Zach Lake, Bennington
Product labeling is a critical part of keeping kids (and adults) safe. Symbology is important, but so are the overall package design and the size of words and graphics. Please take a look at the attached photo of a package of edible chocolate drops purchased in Massachusetts. To a child's eye it's simply a package of delicious chocolates. The words "cannabis-infused" are small and sideways, while the very kid-attractive "Milk Chocolate Drops" is big and bold. The back has a ton of small print and a few symbols, but nothing that can compete for a child's attention. I don't know how to address this problem, other than by requiring the package warning to be bigger than anything else. It's a thorny issue, and I wish you well in designing a solution.
- Tom Buchanan, Londonderry
September 28, 2021
As a small grower of 15 years, I was unable to access the legal market in California due to lack of capital and intense competition from enormous corporate grow operations. Now that I own 10 acres, I am hoping and praying that Vermont reflects it's small town, homestead-centric ethos and gives small growers such as myself a leg up so that Vermont cannabis is not dominated by out of state corporate growers. If this doesn't happen, I feel that Vermont will go the way of the other states that have legalized cannabis which have rendered the market inaccessible for small growers.
- Christopher Becker, Chester
My wife and I have done hundreds of hours of research on how to produce top quality organic cannabis. Utah State University has great materials on the subject. Dr. Bugbee works with NASA and has been growing cannabis for decades in his lab. In Vermont the best cannabis will be grown indoors under high diodes.
The input costs for a 1000 sq ft indoor grow operation range from $125k to $250k depending on what you are working with. HVAC, lighting, security, and environmental controls are expensive. Not to mention that you are guaranteed to lose thousands in the first four months waiting for the first crop.
The very best thing the CCB can do to help small cultivators is to provide a provisional license and allow small cultivators a head start. Allow small cultivators to grow over the winter when cooling costs are low and then sale to the integrated license holders in May.
The demand will outstrip supply no matter what. The shelf life of cannabis will be unaffected by storage between May and October. The integrated license holders will be able to stockpile in anticipation of October. My conversations with them indicate that they want to do so.
Forcing the small cultivators to begin cultivation in May when costs are highest will put them at a disadvantage, it will ensure a supply shortage, and encourage only the very rich (or very illegal) to participate. I am happy to provide statistics and research to back all the points made here.
- Michael Shane, South Strafford
Please choose Metrc for seed to sale system for sustainability. It is used in both Massachusetts and Maine. It is also used in all other legal and medical cannabis markets.
- Keith Rowe, Manchester Center
September 29, 2021
After listening to the comments last night it is clear that many folks do not understand how competitive the market really is. All New England states will have legal cannabis soon. The idea that you can throw a few seeds in the back yard and produce top quality cannabis is delusional. Jasper Hill Farm spent 5 years perfecting the process of making cheese. They researched methods from around the world. If Vermont is going to have destination cannabis it will be grown by people who have put in the time and money to do it right. Cannabis is a crop that loves light. Vermont does not get the kind of natural sunlight required for top quality. Indeed, most of the outdoor cannabis grown around the world is used for manufacturing cannabis products not for top quality flower.
Not to mention, nobody with a mortgage on their home can even grow at their house. Mortgage companies will not allow it and you would not be able to get insurance.
I have provided a few links for explanation. Here is a quote from one of those links "The general consensus among plant scientists and horticulturalists (as much as it pains many of us to admit it) is that the highest-quality fruits and flowers are achieved in a controlled, indoor grow environment." We are also happy to provide any additional information the Board may find useful.
- Michael Shane, South Strafford