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Vermont voters expand map of cities where cannabis retail will be allowed

Updated at 10:52 p.m.

In Tuesday’s Town Meeting Day votes, Vermonters dramatically increased the number of cities where cannabis retail will be allowed to anyone 21 and older.

“This is a very important time for Vermont,” said James Pepper, chairman of the Vermont Cannabis Control Board. “We want Vermonters to be able to access this product close to home rather than having these cannabis deserts around Vermont.”

While several small towns said no, Tuesday’s vote significantly reduced the distances between towns that have decided to allow cannabis retail in their future.

Essex, Vermont’s second-largest community and the largest to hold a cannabis-related vote on Tuesday, approved the sale of recreational cannabis by a wide margin, 3,589-2,473.

Of more than 40 communities that considered selling cannabis at retail on Tuesday, at least 25 said yes, according to a tally by VTDigger. Other large communities that said yes included Barre (767-463), Bristol (513-264), Hartford (1,152-748), Manchester (591-355), Milton (1,060-895) and Springfield (715-632).

Other cities that voted to adopt the proposals include: Bolton (114-63), Derby (200-165), Fair Haven (285-230), Fayston (129-78), Ferrisburgh (294-172), Grand Isle (316-223), Marlboro (201-94), Moretown (326-207), Pittsford (323-313), Poultney (298-258), Proctor (125-102), Putney (384-263), Rockingham (318-187), Wallingford (269-228), Waitsfield (297-160) and Wilmington (173-85).

In Stratton, all 20 people who showed up at the Town Meeting approved the measure, and Sheldon approved cannabis retail by two votes, 71-69.

“What that really means is that the council has a lot of work to do with these cities whose citizens have asked for this because there are a lot of questions there,” Pepper said. “Cities don’t know where their authority is, where the council’s authority is.”

Among the questions cities are asking, Pepper said, is what the role of first responders will be.

During this time, several cities decided that they did not want to participate in the retail sale of cannabis. The 19 Norton residents who turned out for their town hall said no to cannabis in a voice vote from the ground.

Other communities that have rejected the measure include Castleton (351-301), Eden (27-19), Leicester (56-53), Mount Holly (250-147) and Swanton Village (125-119).

In about 30 municipalities that announced the results Tuesday night, some 36,200 voters favored retail cannabis, while 18,600 disapproved, according to VTDigger’s tally.

By Tuesday, 33 Vermont communities had already approved cannabis retail establishments, according to the Vermont League of Cities and Towns.

In the city of St. Albans, before the polls closed, voters on Tuesday had mixed responses when asked if they supported cannabis at retail.

Meg Jarvis said she voted yes in hopes it would provide a new source of revenue for the city.

“It’s happening statewide,” Jarvis said. “It’s time for it to be a way to generate income.”

Still, she said she’s concerned that the City of St. Albans police budget may need to increase if a local retail cannabis store opens.

Another resident, Rita Sweeney, said she voted against the ballot because she doesn’t think cannabis should be used recreationally in the city.

“If it’s for medical purposes, yes – sure,” Sweeney said. “But if it’s for recreation, I’m sorry. I do not believe it.

Under Vermont law, recreational cannabis use is already legal, but communities must register before anyone can set up shop to sell the product for non-medical purposes.

Shaun Robinson contributed reporting.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed Fair Haven results.

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