Rolling Twenties, a cannabis dispensary, opened this week in Rockingham.
Robert F. Smith/The Commons
Rolling Twenties, a cannabis dispensary, opened this week in Rockingham.

Rockingham's first cannabis dispensary opens its doors

Rolling Twenties proprietor Joe Ruggiero says he wants to overcome stigma and stereotypes of those who consume the substance

It's taken over 20 months, but Rolling Twenties cannabis dispensary, at the junction of Darby Hill and Rockingham Road (Route 5), had a soft opening on Jan. 1, and its grand opening is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 6.

Rolling Twenties is owned by Joe Ruggiero, under 802 420 LLC. Pat Greenleaf will manage the store with a full staff of six, including two cannabis experts known as budtenders, who have experience at other dispensaries around the country.

Ruggerio is a well-known, longtime entrepreneur in the community. He is the owner of Ruggerio Trash and a newly created logistics company.

There were limited hours for the soft opening, and the store will continue with a 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. schedule after that. Ruggerio said that they will be working out an exact schedule once the store is open, depending on demand.

The new store has permits to be open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

You have to be at least 21 years old to enter the store, and have a government-issued photo ID.

Ruggiero has spent the startup time remodeling the dispensary, a former surveying and real estate office, repainting the building a deep red and green, making the building accessible and more energy efficient, and adding several layers of security.

He referred to the last two years as a steep learning curve for cannabis growers and retailers, as well as for Vermont's Cannabis Control Board, which administers the state regulations for both the medical use program and its adult use program.

He said that the firm first applied for permits to open the store in April 2022. It was pre-qualified at the state level, and then had to work with the town of Rockingham and the Vermont Agency of Transportation to get local permitting. Those local hurdles included addressing parking and entryway issues, all of which were resolved earlier this year.

Ruggiero said that after that point, things turned around fairly quickly for him as far as getting local permits.

"Once I had the information in hand, I came in to the town very prepared," he said.

Rockingham was one of the towns that had a referendum on its ballot as to whether the town should permit a cannabis dispensary. The question passed, but barely. In addition to the dispensary, the town has also permitted two indoor grow businesses.

Ruggiero said that he got his local permitting in June of 2023, and since then has worked closely with the Cannabis Control Board finishing up the process.

Overcoming stigma

Both Ruggiero and Greenleaf said that part of the problem with the legalization of cannabis has been getting past the stigma and mythology that has developed around the product.

Archaeological evidence shows cannabis use in Europe, Asia, and Africa going back at least 12,000 years. Written evidence of cannabis use in the same region goes back 2,500 years. Humanity has a very long record of association with cannabis and hemp for medical, industrial and recreational reasons.

Going back for nearly a century, media have portrayed the image of the addle-brained stoner - someone who is always in a daze, becomes lazy, and gets nothing done.

Such misrepresentation, along with more sinister political and racial issues, led to cannabis being outlawed in some states as early as 1906. It was officially declared illegal, even for medical uses, when the federal Controlled Substance Act was passed in 1970. At that time, cannabis was listed in the Schedule I tier of dangerous drugs, where it and several hallucinogenics were lumped with hard drugs like heroin.

While the Controlled Substance Act remains federal law, cannabis is now legal in 38 states for medical use and 24 states for recreational use. This has resulted in the dilemma of cannabis growing and sales being a federal crime with serious penalties, while at the same time an activity that is legal in the majority of states. Efforts have been underway for some time to update federal law to coincide with the actions of the states.

Many people have turned to medical and recreational cannabis as a way to deal with illness, pain, and nausea, to avoid having to take powerful addicting opiates, and as a milder, healthier recreational alternative to alcohol.

Ruggiero said that he knows many people who have switched to edible cannabis instead of drinking alcohol, as a way to avoid alcohol's damaging effects on the body and mind.

"I know a lot of people that used to like to drink who are moving to edibles," Ruggiero said. "A lot of professional, hard-working people use cannabis. This is not the world of a Cheech and Chong movie."

Keeping things local

One of the goals of Vermont in rolling out legalized cannabis was to keep things as local as possible, similar to the state's craft beer industry. The goal is to support small businesses and keep big national or international business chains from coming in and taking over both the supply and distribution of cannabis in the state.

Under state law, participants in the cannabis program - from growers to distributors to retailers - must be Vermont residents, and all products must be produced in the state.

"A lot of the growers - the majority, in fact - are organic, growing cannabis in what they call living soil," said Ruggiero, who is working with six local growers.

"I like the fact that it's being regulated," Ruggiero said. "It creates some issues, but it helps guarantee that we have a healthier, safer product for everyone."

Keeping production local has had some problems, including the fact that there is still not an adequate supply of product. The fact that 2023 was a very wet year in Vermont created problems with poor bud growth and crops being lost to mold and mildew.

While up-to-date figures are hard to come by as more growers and dispensaries are being licensed regularly, approximately 360 Tier 1 licensed growers operate in Vermont, as well as two testing laboratories, 86 manufacturers in all tiers, 12 wholesalers, and 77 retailers.

Vermont has a 14% tax on cannabis, including food and beverages, in addition to the 6% state sales tax. Some local municipalities have also added a small town sales tax as well. In its first 10 months, legal, taxable cannabis sales reached $67 million.

James Pepper, chair of the Cannabis Control Board, said earlier this year that taxable sales are likely to reach the Board's projection of $100 million to $150 million, bringing in a minimum estimated $20 million in tax revenue for the state.

Rolling Twenties, at 440 Rockingham Rd., will have medical cannabis, edibles, vapes, concentrates, and drinks, in addition to traditional bud. The store will also carry cannabis-based CBD-products for animals. It will offer special rates for seniors and veterans. For more information, visit

This News item by Robert F. Smith was written for The Commons.

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