On May 18, 2023

Senate approves changes in state cannabis regulations


By Fred Thys/VTDigger

The Senate on Thursday, May 11, by a unanimous voice vote, approved a bill, H.270, that opens the door to developing new strains of cannabis and makes some changes in the cannabis medical system.

The bill would create a new “cannabis propagation cultivator” license allowing the establishment of cannabis nurseries in Vermont. 

“The purpose of this license type is to allow businesses to specialize in developing new strains or cultivars and provide clean, tested source material for cultivators,” Sen. Wendy Harrison, D-Windham, told colleagues as she presented the bill during the initial debate Wednesday night. 

The nursery license would allow strains to be developed in Vermont that are free from pesticides and pathogens. Contamination with a pesticide led the state Cannabis Control Board to recall all cannabis from Holland Cannabis in February.

The bill also would make some changes in Vermont’s medical cannabis system. Under present law, people with post-traumatic stress disorder seeking a medical card so they can buy cannabis from a medical dispensary must be in psychotherapy. This bill would eliminate that requirement. 

The bill also would allow caregivers to take care of two patients instead of one, as is the case under current law. Caregivers may grow cannabis for their patients. 

Also under the new bill, patients with lifelong conditions would be able to renew their medical cards once every three years instead of annually.

“It doesn’t make sense to require a patient to submit to an annual renewal that merely verifies that they continue to have an incurable condition,” Harrison said. 

The House passed the bill in March. Both chambers must now reconcile the differences between their versions of the bill before it heads to the governor’s desk. One main difference: The Senate version would treat all outdoor cannabis-growing operations as agriculture, which would prohibit local ordinances from regulating them as public nuisances, most notably odor, to any greater degree than they do other agriculture, and also would protect them from local zoning rules. 

Under present law, only small outdoor growers of up to 1,000 square feet of cannabis canopy are exempt from these municipal restrictions. The Senate also would add $500,000 to replenish the Cannabis Business Development Fund, which provides grants and technical assistance to social equity applicants who have been disadvantaged by the war on drugs. The fund has largely been depleted. 

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