Cannabis retailers stand up Principles to drive greater market fairness

Vermont Growers Association Cannabis retailers hold a crucial role in the Vermont adult-use marketplace. Without direct sale allowances for cultivators and manufacturers, retailers are the only license type allowed to sell cannabis products to the general public, adults 21 years of age and older, creating a unique position in the market where cultivators and manufacturers must depend upon intermediaries to help provide a livelihood and, perhaps most importantly, to forge vital relationships with prospective and current customers. The distinct position retailers are afforded in the current market also carries significant responsibility to influence product variety and availability, other licensees in facilitating greater fairness and accountability throughout the supply chain, and increasing our state market national competitiveness.

To that end, the Vermont Growers Association Retailer Working Group, a committee comprised of local industry cannabis retailer leaders, has announced Retailer Principles to serve as a foundation of awareness and understanding of cannabis across the state market, to hold each other accountable to those principles, and to use their position in the market to contribute to and help guide the formation of an economically viable, racially just, and agriculturally accessible world-renowned regulated cannabis market that surpasses the reputation of other cottage industries in Vermont, such as beer and cheese.

The Retailer Principles is a living document that will change as cannabis laws change in Vermont and federally, and set forth an inclusive range of issues of vital importance to the industry, from fair practices in pricing and business-to-business relationships, to lifting those harmed by the criminalization of cannabis, to combating systemic racism, to supporting the medical cannabis community and more – founded upon the tenets of the triple bottom line economic concept to prioritize people, planet, and prosperity and not at the expense of others. 

As the Vermont Cannabis Control Board works on recommendations for lawmakers for 2024 to improve the neglected state medical cannabis program, Dove Sharp, co-founder of The Gas Station, a retail shop in Rutland, acknowledges its unique needs, "Going above and beyond for our medical patients with sensitivity and compassion is paramount for us. Offering a safe space through private shopping upon request and providing tax-free discounts is just the start of how we aim to be able to serve our medical patients in the future. We hope to have fair and easy access for all patients to the medicine they need and additional medical cannabis training for employees."

The criminalization of cannabis is one of the numerous components of systemic racism that spans American society, including housing, health care, and education, and bringing awareness to this issue is crucial to ending it, and cannabis retailers have a role. As Amanda Kitchen, co-founder of Gram Central, a retail shop in Montpelier, says “Our hiring and recruitment policies, as well as our core values of inclusivity and diversity, inform how we operate our business and it’s paramount that we work with people who share our philosophies.”

Ensuring the Vermont market stays resilient and independent means centering small local growers and products. Eddie Furci of Winooski Organics in Winooski explains, "Besides the best quality, by supporting local independent businesses, we are boosting up our neighbors and helping them prosper in a competitive market." Dusty Kenney of Cambridge Cannabis Company in Cambridge continues, "We want to make sure the consumer is aware of who put in the hard work to produce the product they are enjoying, not just brand it so they remember the store they purchased it at."

Since cultivators and manufacturers cannot yet sell their products to the general public, some cultivators and manufacturers also obtained a retailer license, and these businesses see a special place in the market, highlighted by Per Arneberg, co-founder of Blue Sage, a vertically integrated cannabis business in Waitsfield, "We aim to do whatever we can support other small and local cultivators and manufacturers. We feel it is our responsibility to use our consumer-facing storefront to showcase and promote the diversity of products and producers coming out of this unique recreational cannabis market. This also includes educating our customers as to why we chose to support small, local producers, who keep economic resources within the Vermont market economy, over MSO/big business operators who are opportunistically seeking out partnerships that benefit themselves and their stakeholders, pulling dollars out of the state economy."

The Vermont Growers Association Retailer Working Group members include Pine Grove Organics of Brandon, Somewhere on the Mountain of Rutland, Cambridge Cannabis of Cambridge, Gram Central of Montpelier, Blue Sage of Waitsfield, Sunday Drive of Woodstock, The Gas Station of Rutland, and Winooski Organics of Winooski. To read the complete Retailer Principles, please visit the Vermont Growers Association website.

Vermont Growers Association is a nonpartisan, mutual-benefit, member-based nonprofit trade association serving local, small, and independent farms and businesses representing the entire supply chain of Vermont's adult-use cannabis industry. The mission of the Vermont Growers Association is to ensure Vermont has an equitable, viable, craft-centric, small business-driven adult-use cannabis marketplace through education, marketing, and advocacy. We see Vermont as a premier state for locally-produced, world-class quality cannabis, related products, and services. Learn more about Vermont Growers Association:

Source: 11.13.2023. Burlington, VT — Vermont Growers Association Vermont Business Magazine