Montpelier — Retail sale of cannabis will soon be legal to Vermont’s south and to its north but that won’t be much help to Vermont marijuana buyers, and the state might take a financial hit, some say.
Cannabis possession became legal in Quebec in June and retail sales will begin Oct. 17. In Massachusetts, possession has been legal for two years and the first retail outlets are expected to open by the end of the year. In Vermont, possession of small amounts became legal July 1, but selling remains illegal.
Vermont should move more quickly to implement a regulated market before Vermont residents begin to take advantage of those legal retail options, said Laura Subin, director of Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana.
“This makes it even more inevitable that Vermont will and should move toward a tax and regulate market,” Subin said. “We know Vermonters consume marijuana, so it becomes a question of “Do we want Vermont tax dollars to go to Quebec, Massachusetts, Maine. Do we want that?’ ” she said.
Tax revenue and cannabis tourism dollars for Vermont are also at risk, she said.
Vermont’s current estimate of $15 million to $20 million in yearly revenue from cannabis sales is already lower than the Rand Corp.’s estimate of $20 million to $75 million back in 2015. But Vermont’s decision to lag in moving to a regulated market may continue to bring revenue down.
Gov. Phil Scott says Vermont is not ready for a regulated cannabis market, citing the need for prevention programs and accurate tests for driving under the influence.
“I don’t think we’re ready for a tax and regulation system right now, but we have opportunities to watch what other states are doing. Make sure that we don’t make the same mistakes that they did,” Scott said, in a debate last week with Democratic gubernatorial nominee, Christine Hallquist.
In Quebec, there are plans to open 20 government-operated stores by the end of…