By Katy Savage
The Woodstock Village Board of Trustees voted unanimously Oct. 12 to ask the public whether to allow cannabis retail shops in town.
The vote will be held at the annual Village Meeting in March. Seton McIlroy, the vice chair of the trustees, said the 10-person cannabis committee has been meeting once a month for the past six months and working with information from the state’s newly-formed cannabis control board.
McIlroy said if the vote passes, there would need to be a Local Cannabis Control commision, which, under Act 164, would issue licenses, create zoning bylaws or ordinances, develop local regulations, and suspend or revoke licenses.
The local commission “would be integral in deciding what, when and where,” McIlroy said. It would administer rules from the state, which McIlory said are ever-changing.
The state’s three-person cannabis control board formed in March 2021 after a bill became law last year to allow marijuana retail shops to open in Vermont by October 2022.
The state board is tasked with establishing rules and regulations for retailers, growers, and testing facilities, as well as issuing licenses. The board has so far largely focused on equity and supporting marginalized groups that have been harmed by marijuana laws in the past.
McIlroy said she wanted the local commission to shadow the state’s equity initiatives.
“We want to make sure this board is diverse in terms of background,” she said. “We want to make sure it’s not the same people who raise their hands over and over again.”
The trustees will hold a meeting at a later date devoted to further cannabis discussion. Several information sessions will also be held prior to the public vote.
Trustee chair Jeff Kahn said it will likely be a divided topic, explaining early surveys showed a 50/50 split on allowing a marijuana dispensary in Woodstock.
McIlroy said the decision to simply move forward with a public vote was a “big step.”
The trustees also voted to allow four fire pits in the Village to celebrate Wassail.
The fire pits will be lit Dec. 11, 12, 18 and 19 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
There will be two fire pits on the Green, one near the Town Crier and one at Teagle’s Landing, with s’mores to purchase from the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce’s office.
Some trustees were concerned about liability, but Beth Finlayson, the executive director of the Woodstock Chamber, said the fire pits will be monitored with help from the Woodstock Union High School lacrosse team.
Finlayson also asked the trustees to allow a Christmas market on the Middle Bridge on Dec. 11. The market would feature up to 13 craft and food vendors, and be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., or until dark.
Most of the trustees liked the idea of the market, but Kahn, who was concerned about competition, urged Finlayson to ask business owners in the Village their thoughts first.
“On a critical Saturday in December, I think that’s not necessarily in the interest of the business community,” said Kahn, who owns the Unicorn gift shop.
McIlory said having pop-up shops might entice more people to open stores in Woodstock.
“We can’t turn away businesses now,” she said. “We have storefronts to fill.”
Patrick Fultz, the owner of Sleep Woodstock, suggested creating a shopping map to encourage the estimated 5,000 people who are coming to Woodstock that day to visit the stores. “I think you can solve the whole problem by marketing it,” Fultz said.
The trustees asked Finalyson to survey business owners and agreed to hold a special meeting to vote on the market.