A time to grow: Inn owners pitch pot festival
"We want to get ahead of it in southern Vermont because they already started doing cannabis-based tourism in northern Vermont," said Jim Desrochers, owner of the Lodge at Mount Snow.
During the summer, Desrochers told the Reformer, there are no "bells and whistles" in Dover — no water parks or alpine slides. The next logical conclusion, he said, is "organic tourism."
Desrochers and Sandy MacDougall, owner of Layla's Riverside Lodge, are planning The Original Green Mountain Cannabis and Music Festival for July 1. That is the day in Vermont where those 21 and older can legally consume recreational marijuana, possess up to one ounce and/or as many as two mature plants.
"This is something the town can get behind and make a lot of money," MacDougall said in hopes of bringing about 1,500 people to his property on Route 100 for the festival. "Our biggest thing is to get people up here. We are honestly crippled in the summer."
Desrochers and MacDougall are asking the town for a $14,000 grant through 1 percent local option tax revenue, which is specifically earmarked for economic development programming. After presenting their proposal last week, they will be bringing more information to the Select Board on Tuesday. They say the figure makes up about 40 percent of the festival's budget.
The request comes at a time when the Select Board is considering whether to adopt an ordinance to prohibit medical marijuana dispensaries or recreational marijuana retailers in town. A survey will gauge public input at the town offices. Police Chief Randy Johnson had suggested the ordinance years before two Wilmington residents brought a proposal for a medical marijuana dispensary to the board in February.
Desrochers and MacDougall have formed J&S Productions in hopes of putting on similar but not necessarily pot-centric events in the future. They are working with Lotus Soundworks LLC of Connecticut to book entertainment.
Badfish, a Sublime tribute band, is scheduled to be the headliner. On Monday, the group's booking agent Joel Hanks told the Reformer he was expecting to announce the date soon.
Other states legalizing recreational marijuana have seen big increases in interest in cannabis-based tourism, said Desrochers. He believes the festival would only need one-time funding from the town. Then, he said, "it would grow upon itself and be one of those home runs."
Visitors are already using marijuana, both inn owners can attest.
"They're already doing it and it's uncontrolled. All we want to do is control it," Desrochers said. "Every hotel up here has a cannabis problem and no one knows what to do with it. You're mixing families with dope heads."
He plans to have special events or weekends dedicated to cannabis-friendly crowds without alienating others in the future.
Part of the festival is about education, "so people know about the effects and uses of it," said MacDougall.
Vendor space is also available. Oils, tinctures and lotions will be sold, in addition to beer and food.
MacDougall "has a really awesome network of individuals that have this real-life experience with festivals and events," Desrochers said. "And we hope to capitalize on their experience so we can run an organized and hopefully successful event. We're excited to work with them."
Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, a big proponent of marijuana who believes marijuana could be a big economic boon for Vermont, has been invited to the festival. He has not "decided 100 percent but thinking yes," his chief of staff told the Reformer in an email.
The event will go from noon to 8:30 p.m. with local musicians performing earlier and primary acts taking the stage around 5 p.m. Attendees must be 21 and older. General admission is $40 and VIP is $100.
Reach staff writer Chris Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.
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