Vermont launched recreational cannabis sales the first day of October, and though the operators who did open their doors were delighted by the customer turnout, they also know more competition is right around the corner as additional stores continue to open.
“For a large part of the state, we’re pretty convenient to anything in northern Vermont, versus other (adult-use cannabis) retailers,” said Russ Todia, chief operating officer at Ceres Collaborative. “But we know that’s fleeting, and we’ll see a lot of great retailers coming up in the next weeks and months.”
Ceres Collaborative was one of three shops to open in the state on Oct. 1, along with Mountain Girl Cannabis in Rutland and Flora Cannabis in Middlebury.
Todia said that the Ceres recreational location in Burlington – which is the company’s fourth Vermont store, along with three medical-only dispensaries, which still operate under the DBA CeresMED – will only have the city to itself for only a matter of days before other shops join the market.
“We know they’ll catch up quick as the whole supply chain comes more online,” Todia said. “The landscape is going to change a bunch, and what you see now is very different from what it’s going to look like in six months.”
Todia said the state has received about 35 retail applications, all or most of which are expected to become licensed and operational eventually. The only question will be when and where.
“No one really knows … where those (retail) locations are, but Burlington is by far the biggest city in the state, and there are a number of shops that are set up to be retailers,” Todia said. “I’d expect you’d see six or seven by the end of the year in Burlington.”
Navigating Vermont’s regulations
One thing that sets the Vermont market apart from many others, Todia said, is a one-per-company limit of marijuana retail permits, which means that Ceres Collaborative – and every other cannabis company – can only have a single brick-and-mortar marijuana shop.
For the first week of October, at least, Todia said customer demand was strong, and that his shop saw roughly 500 tickets per day the first week of the month.
The launch hasn’t been completely hiccup-free, however, and Todia said there’ve been “some bottlenecks” with the state’s two cannabis testing labs, adding that it was a “scramble” to get inventory lined up for the October launch.
Plus, Todia said, Vermont cannabis companies have to contend with a first-in-the-nation THC potency cap for recreational products. Flower cannot be more than 30% THC, and concentrates can’t be more than 60% THC.
“That’s going to be very frustrating. You’ve got a ton of very experienced growers who are used to growing really potent weed, and right now, you can’t sell that,” Todia said. “It’s something we’ve had to be very mindful of.”