MONTPELIER — Vermont House members have approved a bill that includes some provisions for medical marijuana growers, but most notably increases the limit of tetrahydrocannabinol allowed in one package for retailers.
Along with Virginia, Vermont remains the only other state with legalized retail cannabis to limit the total amount of THC — the main psychoactive cannabinoid found in marijuana — to 50 mg per container of edible product. If passed, bill H.270 would take effect July 1 and would increase the limit to 100 mg per package, which is more in line with the rest of the nation.
“It was really hard for us to find the public health benefit in limiting the number of edibles that people can put in one container,” said Rep. Michael McCarthy, D-Franklin 3. McCarthy is chair of the House Committee on Government Operations and Military Affairs, which oversees cannabis policy.
Should a child get into a container of edibles, McCarthy noted that the state’s change in dosage would not affect the child’s physiological response to the substance nor the protocol for medical treatment.
Responding to the common concern that a child might get into a container that is left open and mistake the edibles for regular sweets, he said, “The medical response to a child eating 10 servings versus 12, 15, or 20. … Once they’ve gotten to the point where they’ve eaten multiple gummies, the medical response and physiological response is going to be pretty similar. Either way, we’re going to try and get that material out of that child as quickly as possible,” he said.
The increased limit figures to be helpful in reducing packaging costs for manufacturers, and therefore retailers and customers further down the supply chain.
“I think another good analogy is that no one would think it would be reasonable to drink an entire handle of vodka,” McCarthy explained. “Yet we allow you to buy a big, bulk container of alcohol to save money and be more efficient.”
Bringing down costs will help Vermont retailers keep business in-state rather than traveling to New York or Massachusetts or seeking it from unregulated sources.
“For folks who aren’t familiar with cannabis, some of these things seem really alien,” McCarthy said. “I’m trying to help the public understand how we’re trying to bring the black market out into the light, and protect public health with a very well-regulated market that makes sense.”
Otherwise, bill H.270, which McCarthy referred to as a “housekeeping” bill, would also loosen the limitations on noncommercial cultivators of medical marijuana, allowing for six mature plants and 12 immature plants, up from two and seven, respectively. McCarthy also aimed to ease some of the burden on the medical marijuana market by significantly reducing the fees to operate as a dispensary, proposing to drop first-time registration and subsequent-year renewal fees to $10,000 — down from $20,000 and $25,000, respectively.
“The Cannabis Control Board came to us with a proposal to lower the dispensary fees,” McCarthy explained. “The number of folks registering for a medical program has diminished significantly, because many of those people now are choosing to just go either grow their own or to go to the adult-use retail market.
“But then there are thousands of Vermonters that rely on specific products that only exist in medical programs. Examples of that are like very high-CBD but very low-THC products that help people sleep, or especially people that have chronic illnesses. So that’s a market that’s being changed by the retail market.”
However, that reduction in fees will be tabled for another year after McCarthy’s bill was amended.
“The Ways and Means Committee said, ‘We see where you’re going. We see what the Cannabis Control Board wants to do. We want to wait one year and do a really holistic look at all fees for medical and adult-use programs.’”
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