BENNINGTON — Colleen McQuade has been in the retail cannabis business in Vermont for only six months, but she is already forging connections and enhancing visibility for the industry she believes in so strongly.
After opening Bennington’s first retail cannabis dispensary last October, McQuade is now bringing the town another first — a 420 celebration. McQuade’s Juniper Lane will present the inaugural 420 Party in the 802, next Thursday at Little City Cider.
In addition to live music, food and, of course, cider and other refreshments provided by Little City Cider, McQuade has invited a handful of vendors and cultivators that she’s partnered with to come and be part of the festivities. Hidden Leaf Homestead (Londonderry), Green Mountain Gardens (Bellows Falls), Sky High Cannabis (Londonderry), American Beauty (Manchester) and Birdland LLC (Athens) are all locked in for the event, McQuade said, with a few more possibly joining.
“They’ll be talking about what they’re doing, talking about their farms and their products,” explained McQuade. “I think some of them are bringing some swag, some giveaway stuff — not cannabis, of course.”
Cannabis still can’t be sold outside of approved retail establishments. McQuade said pipes and other cannabis accoutrements would likely be part of the vendors’ set-up, and cannabidiol products, which are not only legal in Vermont, but also federally, might be sold there, as well.
McQuade said the event on April 20 is as much about building relationships as it is the products.
“They just want to come hang out and meet the people that have been consuming and buying their weed, you know?” McQuade said. “Kind of build that community, connect the growers right to the people. So that’s kind of cool.”
The event will be catered by Jamaican Jewelz out of Brattleboro, and reggae/rock group Woody & the Rebel Alliance, from North Adams, Mass., will be on stage starting at 7 p.m.
“They’re a really fun, funky reggae band. I think they have an 11-piece band coming. It should be a good time. They rock,” McQuade said.
McQuade was grateful for Greg Videtto, owner of Little City Cider, opening his doors to the event, especially after brainstorming and putting it all together within just a few weeks.
“I just had an idea. He has a great venue. A good stage, really nice outdoor space. So we talked to Greg, and then we’ve made everything happen pretty quick,” McQuade said.
The origins and meaning of the numeral 420 and, subsequently, the date April 20, being associated with the cannabis community aren’t entirely clear. Several different legends of varying credibility can be traced back at least six decades.
For McQuade, though, a gathering like the one planned for next Thursday carries even more meaning. Opening up a cannabis shop, throwing a 420 party, and recently becoming the chair of the Cannabis Retail Association of Vermont — which is now working closely as a unified voice with legislators and the Cannabis Control Board — are all pieces of a bigger puzzle for her.
“This was part of my vision. I wanted to create a space for the cannabis community to flourish in Southern Vermont. That’s one of the reasons I opened Juniper Lane, was to create a hub for all the growers and the cannabis lovers and consumers, and have events like this where we could all come together and just celebrate who we are.”
“Just normalizing it,” she later added. “We’re all normal people. Everyone that comes in my store, friends, employees, co-workers, partners in business … we’re all really amazing, hardworking people.”
McQuade said that the hope is to expand the 420 party into something larger and somewhat akin to the Southern Vermont Homebrew Festival that’s coming April 29.
“I’m excited. I’m happy to be doing this. This is the first of many. I love to run a good party,” she said with a laugh.
Doors for the party open at 6 p.m. Admission is free, but patrons must be 21 to enter.