As a medical marijuana dispensary hopeful, we have decided to withdraw our application from the Vermont Marijuana Registry due to the restrictive laws that would cause us to be out-of-compliance with possession limits for the simple act of harvesting outdoor-grown cannabis crops. Our organization has been looking forward to establishing a Vermont medical marijuana dispensary focused on outdoor, organically grown cannabis, with an emphasis on patient education and service, but under current legislation we cannot deliver on the vision our founding members believe would best serve Vermont’s medical marijuana patients.
As we watched S.16, the legislative bill related to medical marijuana, move through the statehouse, we met with legislators, attended meetings, and did all we could to facilitate its passage. As it moved from Senate to House, and from committee to committee, we were especially pleased to see that outdoor cultivation would be allowed, and it felt that our legislators were embracing the strong agricultural heritage of our state.
One of the many things we love about Vermont is its agricultural history and its celebration of small farms. Vermonters embrace the “No Farms, No Food” bumper stickers (We personally prefer the “Yes Farms, Yes Food” ones!) and we all know where the farmers’ markets are. In fact, many of us actually put seeds in the soil and grow our own vegetables.
Our legislators must have certainly been thinking about Vermont history, and especially our future. Verdant Vermont has a great model to cultivate medical marijuana under the sun, using organic methods and inputs. While we are fully aware of the benefits that growing indoors under lights allows, we aren’t willing to compromise our core beliefs: indoor cultivation uses excessive amounts of electricity — so much that some cities in legal states are adding an electricity tax to indoor grow operations. The extra carbon processed is significant. The ability for mites and molds to appear and grow unchecked is serious. The time needed to grow sativa strains pushes growers to produce fewer of them. Growing under lights is neither natural, nor the Vermont way.
Currently, Vermont’s dispensaries are allowed to possess two mature plants, seven immature plants, and 4 ounces of cannabis for each of their registered patients. Before May 2014, the numbers were similar, but dispensaries were allowed to possess just 2 ounces of cannabis per patient. It was doubled to 2 ounces with bill S.247 (Act 155) when the state learned how difficult the 2 ounce limit was for patients and the dispensaries.
For a dispensary to cultivate primarily or exclusively outdoors in Vermont’s northern latitude, the limit of possessing 4 ounces of cannabis per patient at any one time, is too low. Verdant Vermont could easily produce enough cannabis for patients during our growing season, but would be limited to the state mandated 4 ounces per patient until the following year. For that reason, we chose not to apply for the one available license in the state. The only alternative for us would be to grow indoors also, and we simply do not want to be part of that, as it would undermine our core beliefs and prevent us from generating medicine in a manner we feel best serves the patients of Vermont, and is best for the environment.
Our state has a history of progressive ideas, and embracing medical cannabis is a continuation of that legacy. The inclusion of outdoor cultivation in S.16 is another step in the right direction, but the limitations of this legislation are too great for our model.
We are glad to be part of the medical marijuana movement in Vermont. We know the aid it can provide to many people, and all three of us hope to provide superior medicine, grown organically, under the sun, and at a fair price. We will continue to work with legislators and fellow advocates to help Vermont move forward with legal cannabis in a sustainable manner. In addition, we hope to work with existing operators and patients in the state to pursue a system that embraces organic, outdoor, and sustainable agricultural practices for Vermont.
Editor’s Note: Verdant Vermont is a registered trademark and limited liability corporation operating in the state of Vermont. The organization is currently pursuing industry advocacy and best practices for cultivation, processing, and cannabis testing. Principals include Dr. Carl Christianson, a natural product chemist, David Hull, a Newfane farmer, and Melissa Thunberg, an entrepreneur.