SO, WHAT’S GOING ON WITH LEGALIZED CANNABIS IN VERMONT?
We’ve been spending a fair bit of time looking at the introduction of legalized cannabis sales in California lately, and rightly so. It’s magical mayhem in the Golden State at present with the introduction of compliant packaging, additional regulations for all cannabis edibles, and cannabis shortages on dispensary shelves as few brands get their flower up to regulatory standards in time. But it’s time to take a break from Cali and turn our attention to what’s happening in Vermont.
It’s been a significant year so far for cannabis advocates in Vermont. Things kicked off on January 11 2018, when Governor Phil Scott approved Act 86 and decriminalized cannabis in Vermont. What’s particularly newsworthy about this decriminalization is that it converted Vermont into the first state to legalize the use of recreational cannabis by an act of state legislature. In all other states where cannabis has been decriminalized, the changes were brought about by voter referendums, but not in the Green Mountain State. Way to go, Vermont!
And so, since July 1st 2018, Vermonters over the age of 21 have been allowed to legally possess and consume cannabis for recreational purposes, with limits being set at 1 ounce of marijuana, 2 mature (flowering) plants, and 4 immature (non-flowering) plants. However, as we all know, the process of legalization brings with it a series of rules, regulations, restrictions, and possible punishments. For instance, it’s still illegal to smoke cannabis in public in Vermont, it’s prohibited to smoke it in front of a child and, as much as it disappoints us, it remains 100% illegal to buy or sell recreational cannabis in the Green Mountain State.
What is interesting, however, is that dispensaries selling medicinal cannabis (legal in Vermont since May 2004) and farms cultivating related products, like industrial hemp, have seriously cranked up their creativity when it comes to branding. Buying and selling recreational cannabis in Vermont might be illegal right now, but the hope is that by 2019 that all might change. In fact, the Marijuana Advisory Commission, established by Governor Phil Scott in September 2017, is scheduled to make policy recommendations for a commercial cannabis market toward the end of this year, although general feeling is that nothing concrete will happen until 2019. As such, brands seem to be preparing for the moment when they can wow legal buyers and stand strong against intense competition in the over 21 market.
It only takes a quick review of what Vermont-based brands are up to, to know that the state is catching on fast. It knows that the traditional cannabis “stoner” image just isn’t going to work anymore. The new legal consumer needs to be communicated with using a very different approach.
Vermont Hempicurean prides itself on its collective, community mission. It’s opted for a beautiful emerald green to inject energy and vigor into its new website, and preparations are in place to begin selling a range of industrial hemp products via its new online shop. Vermont Farmacy has been pretty creative with its new brand tagline, “From soil to CBD oil.” Not only does it rhyme, but it also reminds the consumer that its products come from the ground; a trend that we’re seeing across a number of U.S. states. As a third and final example, Creek Valley Cannabidiol has gone for a powerful splash of burnt orange on its new website, and has chosen to highlight the two most important aspects of its product line: organic and high quality.
There’s no doubt about it, Vermont is saying, “goodbye stoner, hello connoisseur”.
One of the things that makes it difficult for any cannabis or CBD business to function is the lack of banking support. A solid merchant account is something that all businesses need, whatever the industry, but in the cannabis space finding one is a real challenge. Even though the 2018 Farm Bill made it legal to cultivate hemp on a federal level, and even though most states have legalized the cultivation and sales of cannabis and cannabis products to varying degrees, cannabis and CBD businesses are still having a hard time with banks and credit card companies. It makes the running of a legal, professional business difficult, if not impossible, which is why merchant account service providers, like InclusivePay, have come to the rescue.
As the sun rises on a new day, another CBD brand appears. It's selling the same white label CBD products as all the others, made from oils that are rich in CBD and low in THC. The only difference is that the product has been packaged in a slightly different container, and there's a new name and logo printed on top. The CBD market has quickly become the area of the cannabis industry that's suffering most from a lack of differentiation. So, what’s a CBD brand to do? Well, one recommendation would be to partner up with a CBD formulator.
The passing of the 2018 Farm Bill gave CBD exactly what it needed to soar. As a result, the CBD industry in 2019 has already experienced exponential growth. Data suggests the trend will continue in the years to come, with the CEO of ArcView Group, Tony Dayton, predicting that CBD product sales will climb to $20 billion by 2024. For CBD brands and businesses, both established and emerging, this can only mean one thing… heightened competition and less opportunity to control market share.