Andy Coyne votes

Andy Coyne, who serves on the Jamaica Select Board, votes on retail cannabis Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. 

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JAMAICA — Residents voted 55-27 to allow cannabis retailers to set up shop in town and rejected an article to allow integrative licensees in a 70-12 vote.

At the town office at about 4:20 p.m. Tuesday, it was unclear to Town Clerk Sara Wiswall how the vote would go with about three hours left for voting.

“I just am too old to approve of things like that,” said one voter, who asked not to be identified.

Grace Coyne voted in favor of allowing retail cannabis.

“Why not?” she said, adding that it would be good for the economy and people who need cannabis for medical purposes. “And it’s all natural.”

Wiswall said she saw a few new faces Tuesday.

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In March, Jamaica voted 51-37 in favor of an article allowing retail cannabis and integrative licenses that cover growing, processing, packaging, distribution and lab work. But without publishing a notice in a newspaper, the town didn’t properly warn the vote so a second vote was scheduled. Calls for the two items to be separated came from Fran Janik of Jamaica, a cannabis grower and cannabis patient advocate whose involvement in legalization efforts in Vermont dates back more than a decade. At an informational meeting Thursday, he said the state currently limits integrative licenses to “the three corporations that own the current five dispensary licenses.”

Janik has been raising concerns that the integrated licenses are currently creating inequities for small business owners. The Vermont Cannabis Control Board “is working on this,” he said of the group charged with making rules for the marketplace.

If the integrated licenses become allowed for anyone, the issue can be voted on again in Jamaica.

“But if we don’t disallow them now then we lose the choice to disallow them once the cannabis rules come into effect,” Janik said. “What I thought is if we separate the vote, if a majority allows retail and rejects the corporations right now, at least we got something to protect the small business person if they want to grow and sell here in Jamaica.”

If the town didn’t vote on the issue by May then it would have lost its right to vote in the future and the state can come down with mandates, Select Board member Tom Tolbert said at the meeting. Retail cannabis sales are expected to begin in October 2022.

“The voters of Jamaica have spoken for the small grower and against the corporations,” Janik said Tuesday night. “We will continue to work for farm to table to give everyone an income in this new market.”