Four file for marijuana dispensary permits
By Thatcher Moats
VERMONT PRESS BUREAU | June 24,2012
MONTPELIER — Community supported agriculture, or CSA, as become a common way for Vermont farmers to sell dairy products, meat and vegetables.
Shayne Lynn, a 41-year-old Burlington man, hopes to apply the same economic model to marijuana, selling CSA shares to patients on the state’s medical marijuana registry and then providing the crop to customers.
“They would purchase the share, and we would cultivate, and when the first harvest or medicine was ready we would dispense to those people,” said Lynn.
Lynn, a professional photographer, was one of four people to apply to open a medical marijuana dispensary during a three-week application period that ended Friday.
The applications — all of them submitted to the Vermont Department of Public Safety at the last minute — are the latest step in an effort to give the roughly 500 registered medical marijuana patients in Vermont a place to buy pot without having to grow it themselves, have a caregiver grow it, or buy it on the street.
State officials overseeing the dispensary program, which Gov. Peter Shumlin and the Legislature established more than a year ago, plan to issue licenses to applicants whose submissions are approved within 30 days.
With a license to open a dispensary in hand, the prospective dispensary owners will then have six months to get their business up and running or risk losing their certification.
Lynn hopes to open a dispensary in Burlington, though he didn’t want to discuss the exact location because he is still working out zoning issues with the city of Burlington.
It’s unclear where other applicants intend to set up shop.
Francis “Paco” Aumand, the director of the Vermont Department of Public Safety’s Division of Criminal Justice Services, said be believes state law requires the department to keep that information confidential.
“All the Department of Public Safety will be able to disclose to the media is there are X number of applications and we have made awards of dispensary certificates,” said Aumand.
Officials at the department plan to make sure local officials are aware if an application is approved for their municipality.
Four applications is less than some advocates expected, and the strict rules governing Vermont’s dispensary law may be a reason why.
Launching a dispensary and then maintaining a viable business requires leaping some high hurdles.
Applicants must pay a nonrefundable $2,500 fee to apply to open a dispensary.
Hefty annual license payments are required: $20,000 for the first year and $30,000 for every year after that.
The customer base is limited because Vermont medical marijuana law caps the number of patients who can be on the marijuana registry at 1,000. Dispensary owners aren’t allowed to advertise. There are security requirements. Only one person is allowed in a dispensary at a time.
Fears of potential federal crackdown and difficulty getting bank loans may be other reasons Vermonters are deterred from applying, state officials and advocates said.
Lynn acknowledged some of the restrictions and said the CSA model — which is found in other states — is one way to overcome the large annual fees. He was also able to put together a financing plan that includes a bank loan and private investors.
Keith Flynn, the commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, said he didn’t have any expectations about how many applications the state would get.
“You know, it’s a new program, so I’m not sure any of us really knew what to expect,” he said.
The application period is closed, but until the four dispensaries allowed under state law are established, the state can continue to accept submissions, said Flynn.
“It will continue until we have four dispensaries up and running,” he said.
Lynn has been working for years to help get the dispensaries bill passed and put together a business plan.
With his application in, now he waits.
“There’s no definite in this,” he said. “I tried to put in the best application I can and now I’m crossing my fingers.”