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NEWFANE — Next up in voting on allowing retail cannabis is Newfane.
On Monday, the Select Board voted to hold an informational meeting for 6 p.m. Aug. 23 at the town offices and on Zoom. A special town meeting is being scheduled for 6 p.m. Sept. 20 at a location to be determined.
“I look forward to seeing what our town thinks,” board member Katy Johnson-Aplin, who has been updating the board on the rollout of the regulated retail cannabis market in Vermont, said in an interview Thursday. “I think it’s going to be an interesting conversation, and I hope that it remains civil and cordial, because it’s a yes-no vote ultimately.”
Locally, Brattleboro, Jamaica, Londonderry, Manchester, Marlboro, Putney, Rockingham and Stratton are among the Vermont towns to vote to allow retail cannabis.
Johnson-Aplin said the Newfane board discussed holding the vote on annual Town Meeting Day in March, and West River Valley Thrives prevention coalition encouraged that it be held off. At the time, she said, the coalition noted the Vermont Cannabis Control Board hadn’t finished writing up additional articles for regulating the marketplace, including the distance retail cannabis businesses need to be from schools.
Now that those rules are in place and the first round of licensing is happening, the board decided it’s time to hold the vote. Johnson-Aplin said applications for licenses for the year need to be submitted to the state by Oct. 1.
“In the interest of fostering small business in our community,” she said, “I think it’s important to hold that vote to not hold anyone back, versus waiting until March then having those folks miss out and having those folks take their business to another town.”
Johnson-Aplin plans to present at the informational meeting.
“I think it will be great to hear from other people, too,” she said. “I hope to be as clear as possible as we go into this meeting and getting the perspective from [the coalition] is a great idea. They’re a little more worried about the effect on young people. I can understand concern if a dispensary opens in Townshend, because both the elementary school and high school are right there on the common and that would be a prime location to put it, but it’s not necessary if people can do it right at their homes or build a secure building on their property and then use it as a store.”
One board member knows of people who are applying to run retail cannabis operations in town, Johnson-Aplin said. She learned from a webinar by Vermont League of Cities and Towns that such businesses must be 500 feet away from schools but do not need to be within commercial zoning.
“It’s very interesting,” she said. “I hope that people do feel like they can open businesses, especially with the ability to have it outside of our commercial zoning, which is only on Route 30, which is a relatively short part of our town considering all the miles of road we have. That would be neat.”
Having the businesses would be good for others, Johnson-Aplin said.
“If people are coming here for one reason, they’re more apt to spend money at our other businesses,” she said.
She doesn’t know if anyone is considering applying for agricultural permits for cannabis.