JAMAICA — With the sale of recreational cannabis allowable under Vermont law starting next year, the community is being asked if the town should authorize such retailers.
“I feel like this is the first step to lay the foundation and from here, there’s still a lot of building that needs to be done,” Select Board Chairman Greg Meulemans said at an informational meeting held remotely Monday.
The vote is happening Wednesday by Australian ballot at the Town Office. Polls are open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Voters will be asked whether to allow retailers and “integrated licensees,” which covers growing, packaging, distribution and lab work. And a vote can later be rescinded.
A number of Vermont municipalities have already started to vote on whether to allow retail cannabis. On annual Town Meeting Day this year, positive votes were secured in Brattleboro, Bennington, Burlington, Winooski, Danville, Sutton, Burke and Barton, according to the Burlington Free Press. Richmond, Lyndon and Newport opted out.
A lot of details are still being worked out, Meulemans said.
“Currently, we are in a situation where the governor is still figuring out who is going to be the cannabis commissioner and the two assistant commissioners,” said Fran Janik of Jamaica, a cannabis grower who was asked by the Select Board to speak at the informational meeting and whose involvement in legalization efforts in Vermont dates back 11 years. “We don’t have a full set of rules.”
Janik hopes licensing fees and requirements are accessible for smaller growers.
Parker Rice, owner of the ski shop Equipe Sport on Route 30, proposed Jamaica hold the vote. But board members had already been wanting to have one.
Meulemans pointed to potential economic opportunities for the town. Janik said he doesn’t see many negative effects if Jamaica hosts a retail store.
Rice anticipates proximity to schools will be considered in the rulemaking.
“It’s going to be at least 1,000 feet,” he said. “I hope that there’s a church component in there as well. I’m not a churchgoer but I think having some separation between houses of worship and this is something we’ll see, which is great.”
Rice expects lighting and other zoning issues also will be addressed in the rules. Towns won’t need to grant a license to every person or group seeking one, he said.
Several residents have told Town Clerk Sara Wiswall they would like to see Jamaica voters adopt a 1 percent local option sales tax if there’s a positive vote on retail cannabis sales “so we would be getting a pretty good kickback on the tax at least,” she said.