By Katy Savage
Cannabis retailers won’t be allowed in Woodstock village since it failed 80-53,during the annual village meeting on March 24.
There were 13 blank votes.
“We’re going to definitely respect the voters,” said Victoria Littlefield, who chairs the Woodstock Cannabis Review Committee.
While cannabis won’t be sold in the Village, which encompasses most of Woodstock’s shops, it may be sold in other parts of the town. The town approved the same article, 448-387 on Town Meeting Day, with 32 blank votes on March 1.
Littlefield said she’s been approached by three interested retailers so far. One was interested in establishing a retail space in the Pizza Chef plaza on Woodstock Road. Another was interested in the Bridgewater Mill Mall, which partly lies in West Woodstock.
“There’s a lot more interest than I was probably thinking,” Littlefield said. “I think we’re going to be busy.”
Littlefield said the next step will be for the town to form a local cannabis control board, which will establish a local permitting process that will run in tandem to the state process, pending approval from the Select Board.
Cannabis has been legal in Vermont since 2018. Act 164 in 2020 allowed cannabis retail shops, but says cities and towns must vote by Australian ballot to opt in to allow retail cannabis operations. Towns can also opt to establish a local cannabis control board. If they don’t, cannabis retailers would defer to the state board for rules and regulations.
Locally, Pittsford (323-313), Poultney (298-258), Proctor (125-102), and Putney (384-263) approved cannabis retailers on Town Meeting Day. The measure was rejected in Castleton (351-301) and Mount Holly (250-147).
It’s unclear how much local control towns will have as policies are still being drafted by the state legislature. Under current regulations, retail stores can’t be located within 500 feet of a school. Towns cannot establish zoning specifically for cannabis dispensaries or create special rules that apply only for cannabis retailers. Locally, municipalities are only allowed to charge $100 for a licensing fee. Littlefield said there are some concerns that it may cost the town more than $100 to process applications.
Littlefield was waiting for further direction from the Legislature. “It’s a difficult position for us to try to set up this thing,” she said.
The state will start approving applications from cannabis retailers starting Oct. 1. Medical dispensaries, however, can start selling retail marijuna in May. Locally, there’s one in Brandon.