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Voices / Viewpoint

Cannabis Control Commissions give residents a voice

The recreational cannabis sales act lets cities and towns have a say over cannabis policy and bring a spectrum of community voices to the table

Jacob Deutsch is a community project coordinator for West River Valley Thrives, a youth substance-use prevention coalition in Windham County.

Townshend

With last year’s passage of Act 164, cities and towns across the state will be deciding if they want to opt in to allowing recreational cannabis sales.

The complex and dense bill still has a long road ahead before we have a clear vision of what recreational sales will look like in practice.

Due to delays at the state level, the state’s Cannabis Control Board has not yet provided us with any promised clarifications. Its members were appointed in late March.

We are still just as in the dark about what retail cannabis will look like for our towns as we were when the bill became law last October. Luckily, the bill did incorporate a way for us, as citizens, to ready our towns: Cannabis Control Commissions.

Act 164 allows your municipality to create a local CCC, giving your town the opportunity to grant local permits, to determine cannabis zoning/nuisance provisions, and to regulate signage.

Essentially, the CCC functions similarly to a zoning committee/board but revolves entirely around cannabis policy. This becomes especially important as the state will have full control over every other aspect of retail cannabis.

The model CCC would feature members from a large cross section of our communities: teachers, cannabis retailers, parents, medical professionals, prevention specialists, and members of the local government. This will ensure that all relevant voices are heard.

The best part about CCCs is they can be created, be staffed, and begin making recommendations even before a town votes to opt in or out of retail cannabis.Setting up a CCC prior to your town’s vote allows your community to have answers to important questions like:

• How close to the school will a cannabis retailer be allowed?

• What hours of operation will be permitted?

• Will the signage of a cannabis retailer disrupt our village’s time-tested aesthetic?

• Does it make sense for our town to pass a 1-percent sales tax across all products to be able to benefit from cannabis sales?

Having answers to questions like these in advance will give voters in your town a much better idea of what retail cannabis will look like in your community.

If your town has opted in already, it is not too late to create a CCC. This period, prior to the launch of retail sales in 2022, is the perfect time to set one up. Your neighbors will thank you for having these questions answered prior to any issues coming up.

Throughout Vermont, prevention coalitions are ready and willing to provide you and your town with information and advice about Act 164 and retail cannabis.

I encourage you to reach out to your Selectboard, local prevention coalition, and neighbors about setting up a CCC to ensure a positive and healthy experience with retail cannabis — no matter how your town votes.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #607 (Wednesday, April 7, 2021). This story appeared on page C1.

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