Pubdate: Wed, 18 Nov 2015
Source: Burlington Free Press (VT)
Copyright: 2015 Burlington Free Press
Author: April Burbank


Entrepreneurs are pitching marijuana as a cash crop that would keep 
college graduates in Vermont and create thousands of jobs.

The Vermont Cannabis Collaborative says in a new report that if 
Vermont lawmakers bring "oeorder to the chaos"  of the underground 
illegal marijuana market, business opportunities would abound.

"oeThis provides a whole new industry for our young millennials 
coming out of college and trying to find what to do in Vermont to 
jump in and become the next Steve Jobs, to become the next Ben and 
Jerry's, to become the next Seventh Generation,"  Alan Newman, a 
founder of Seventh Generation and Magic Hat Brewing Company, said Wednesday.

Newman spoke during a news conference in Burlington one day after 
legalization opponents rallied at the Statehouse in Montpelier.

BURLINGTON FREE PRESS Marijuana-legalization foes want to talk science

Newman and other members of the Vermont Cannabis Collaborative group 
have been working for months on recommendations for a legal marijuana 
industry in the state.

The resulting report, titled "oeWhat Cannabis Can Do for Vermont," 
suggests that any large-scale marijuana-growing operation should be 
at least 51 percent owned by Vermonters and certified as a benefit 
corporation, meaning the business would consider social and 
environmental values in addition to profit.

The proposed Vermont marijuana economy also would include home 
growers with six or fewer plants, and artisanal craft growers with 
seven to 99 plants.

The idea is to create a market unlike the kind that Ohio voters 
recently rejected, which would have allowed just 10 commercial growers.

"oeWe think we have a chance here to grow an economy based on Vermont 
values, based on Vermont tradition, and one that embraces the 
already-existing infrastructure that can really help keep young 
people here and make Vermont an attractive place to live,"  said Bill 
Lofy, former chief of staff for Gov. Peter Shumlin.

Lofy's former boss is publicly coy on whether he will push a 
legalization bill during his final year as governor.

Shumlin, a Democrat, favors legalization and last year accepted 
thousands of dollars of campaign contributions from the groups that 
are calling for legalization, but he has hesitated to set a date.

The governor promised this week to make up his mind by January.

"oeI gotta be candid with you,"  Shumlin said Monday. "oeI'm focusing 
on a lot of other things, like the budget, creating jobs. We will get 
to that, but I haven't made a decision."

Creating jobs is among the goals of the Vermont Cannabis 
Collaborative, which argues that legalization would create as many as 
4,000 positions, because the industry would need growers, architects, 
lawyers, marketing experts, security experts and more.

The group used a custom economic model to estimate the total market 
at about $250 million, assuming 50,000 pounds of marijuana would be 
consumed annually.

Vermont Cannabis Collaborative spokesperson Bill LofyBuy Photo 
Vermont Cannabis Collaborative spokesperson Bill Lofy speaks in favor 
of marijuana legalization at a news conference in Burlington on 
Wednesday. (Photo: GLENN RUSSELL/FREE PRESS) Under the Cannabis 
Collaborative proposal, marijuana tax revenue would go toward 
genetics research at the University of Vermont and Vermont Technical 
College, public education campaigns and "" another Shumlin priority 
"" opiate addiction treatment.

Debby Haskins, a substance-abuse counselor and legal-marijuana 
opponent, agrees that Vermont needs more money for opiate addiction 
treatment, but she said she doesn't understand why the state would 
pay for it by legalizing another drug.

Haskins gathered like-minded Vermonters at the steps of the 
Statehouse on Tuesday to highlight their concerns about public safety 
and health impacts of legalization.

"oeOther than the money issue, the financial issue, what other 
redeeming qualities are there?"  Vergennes Police Chief George 
Merkel, a member of the group Smart Approaches to Marijuana Vermont, 
asked at the Tuesday gathering.

Vermont Cannabis Collaborative cites several benefits, including 
scientific research and public safety.

"oeFrom a safety perspective, having a regulated industry actually 
assures that we have some sense of what we're consuming,"  Lofy said.

Vermonters are split on marijuana legalization, according to a recent 
Castleton Polling Institute survey, with 56 percent in favor.

Both sides are rallying members to flood legislators' phones and email inboxes.

Will Raap, founder of Gardener's Supply Company and the Intervale 
Center, said the Vermont Cannabis Collaborative has operated on a 
$20,000 budget, funded by donations by 80 to 90 people. The 
organization will disband as a formal group later this year, 
following Wednesday's report release.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom