JAMAICA — Town officials forgot to publish in a newspaper the warning of a vote in March on whether to allow cannabis retail sales in the community.
“In the months following, we have had conversations that we may have wanted to separate the two portions — allowing for retail sales and allowing for integrated licenses,” Select Board Chairman Greg Meulemans said in an email response to the Reformer. “We had several options; let it be, hold another vote to ratify the previous vote or as we decided have another vote to separate the two.”
Meulemans and Town Clerk Sara Wiswall said the outcome of the vote scheduled for Oct. 19 will supersede the first, where residents voted 51-37 in favor of allowing cannabis retail sales in town. Because the article was never warned in a newspaper, Wiswall said, the vote is “basically null and void if anyone wants to challenge it.”
Wiswall said one of the biggest advocates in town also called for a revote, wanting to separate out the integrated licenses portion. An integrated license covers all five licenses available — cultivator, wholesaler, product manufacturer, retailer or testing laboratory.
Fran Janik of Jamaica wants residents to vote in favor of retail sales but against integrated licenses because he believes they favor corporations currently running medical cannabis dispensaries in Vermont instead of mom-and-pop shops. He’s a cannabis grower whose involvement in legalization efforts in Vermont dates back more than a decade.
Lately, Janik has been busy advocating for the Vermont Department of Public Safety to better control the direction of the rollout of recreational cannabis retail sales. He said he wants to ensure the three corporations that now own the five integrated licenses in Vermont will not continue to “dictate the policies of the state on cannabis.”
Only the corporations running medical dispensaries can currently have integrated licenses for cannabis sales, Janik said.
“Everyone else is locked down,” he said.
When the integrated licenses become available to all parties, Janik would be for the licenses.
“Then we can vote integrated licenses back once they’re allowed to everyone,” he said. “By statute, they’ve been disallowed.”
Like the initial vote, the one on Oct. 19 will be held by Australian ballot. Retail cannabis sales could begin in Vermont as early as October 2022, according to reports.
Progress is being made but “anti-cannabis people are trying to shut it down,” Janik said. He pointed to the Select Board’s Aug. 23 meeting, where the revote was scheduled and an attendee sitting next to him from West River Valley Thrives offered to provide board members information about youth cannabis use that Janik disputes.
Later in the meeting, Janik and a representative of The Collaborative said they could speak at an informational meeting being planned ahead of the vote. The Collaborative is a substance use prevention coalition based in Londonderry.