Vermont lawmakers voted last week to limit the potency of solid cannabis concentrates in the state’s forthcoming adult-use marketplace.
The House Committee on Government Operations voted May 5 to amend H. 548 with a provision that would prohibit solid cannabis concentrates containing over 60% THC from the adult-use market, according to the VT Digger.
H. 548 is one of four bills aimed at establishing Vermont’s commercial adult-use market, which is set to launch in October, the news outlet reported.
Rep. John Gannon, D-Wilmington, proposed the amendment to cap the potency in solid cannabis concentrates and the change was approved in a voice vote last week, according to the VT Digger.
Senators then expressed their displeasure at the amendment May 6 before moving the legislation to a conference committee with the House to settle their differences over the THC cap, the news outlet reported.
“There isn’t much time to call for a conference committee,” Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, chair of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, told the VT Digger. “I’m really frustrated by the proposal from Rep. Gannon in the House.”
Gannon’s amendment followed a reversal in the Vermont Department of Health’s stance on the THC limit, the news outlet reported.
The department’s senior policy and legal advisor, David Englander, said in an April 28 note to Rep. Ann Pugh, D-South Burlington, the chair of the House Committee on Human Services, that his agency supported eliminating a 60% THC cap for solid cannabis concentrates. Then, the next day, Englander sent another note to Pugh saying that upon further consideration, the department did not want the THC cap lifted.
“The risk to users of high levels of THC are significant and we should not risk contributing to the known risks to consumers' physical and mental health,” Englander wrote to Pugh. “My communication of yesterday to you was based on incomplete information. All errors are mine and please accept my apologies to you and the committee.”
Rep. Taylor Small, P/D-Winooski, a member of the House Human Services Committee, told the VT Digger that the department’s change of heart “was quite shocking.”
“We have gotten no further comment from the department,” she told the news outlet.
Cannabis Control Board Chair James Pepper said during Friday’s hearing that the THC limit is “a gift to the illicit market,” the VT Digger reported.
“It gives the illicit market a monopoly on supplying the demand for these products,” he said.
Sears added that bordering states New York and Massachusetts do not have THC caps in their adult-use cannabis programs, which could encourage Vermonters to go out of state for high-potency concentrates.
As the Legislature works to reconcile their differences in H. 548, the Cannabis Control board missed a May 1 deadline to begin issuing adult-use cannabis cultivation, testing and retail licenses.
Vermont legalized medical cannabis in 2004, and Gov. Phil Scott signed an adult-use legalization bill into law in 2018 that eliminated criminal penalties for the possession of up to 1 ounce of cannabis and allows residents to grow up to two mature and four immature plants at home for personal use.
Separate legislation passed in 2020 to set up a commercial adult-use market in the state.