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Monday, Mar 4, 2024

Retail cannabis sales begin in Vermont, new dispensary opens in Middlebury

Retail cannabis sales began in Vermont on Oct. 1, meaning Middlebury College students over the age of 21 can now legally buy marijuana in the state. In conjunction with the introduction of the new retail market, FLORA Cannabis — a state-licensed dispensary just a nine-minute walk from the Davis Family Library — opened on Park Street in downtown Middlebury.

But once they are on campus, students will face an educational sanction if they are caught using or possessing cannabis. According to Middlebury College policies, repeated violations can lead to punishments up to and including suspension and expulsion.

A Sept. 23 email from Dean of Students Derek Doucet to the student body reminded students of the policy in anticipation of the start of retail cannabis sales in Vermont.

According to the email, because cannabis remains illegal under federal law, “Middlebury is therefore obligated to prohibit cannabis on campus or risk losing substantial federal funding, including Title IV financial aid funds for students.”

The most recent publicly available Department of Public Safety data from 2019–21 revealed only nine disciplinary referrals for drug abuse violations (which include marijuana use, among other substances), all of which were reported in 2021. For comparison, there were 648 referrals for liquor law violations over the same period.

“I think that [the legalization of recreational sales] won’t really affect the amount that is smoked on campus because people already have they’re [sic] means of access to it regardless of age,” an anonymous student over age 21 said in a written statement to The Campus.

The student emphasized that people who use marijuana on campus already have established systems for obtaining it. Other students also felt that the introduction of state-licensed retail options would not significantly change use on campus.

“Sometimes walking back from my dorm late at night I can smell the [marijuana] scent on the air,” Ian Bolton ’25 told The Campus. “I don’t know that that will necessarily get stronger because of one dispensary in town.”

Per legislation effective as of July 1, 2018, adults over 21 years old in Vermont are allowed to possess one ounce of marijuana or five grams of hashish, and cultivate two mature and four immature plants. The same law increased penalties for people over age 21 who knowingly enabled the consumption of marijuana by someone under age 21, and decreased penalties for marijuana possession by those under age 21. Public consumption of marijuana remains illegal under Vermont State law.

On opening day, a Saturday, at around noon, the line outside the door to FLORA Cannabis stretched all the way down the road to Two Brother’s Tavern.

On Tuesday, Oct. 4, when The Campus went to report on the new business, there was a line of seven people just six minutes after the doors opened at 11 a.m.

According to reporting from NBC 5, FLORA saw 1,000 customers between Saturday, Oct. 1 and Sunday, Oct. 3.

Notably, on Wednesday morning, FLORA was running low on some inventory. The initial greeter and ID-checker commented on how busy the shop has been since opening. Also notable is the fact that edibles are not yet available at FLORA.

The Campus was unable to reach FLORA Cannabis for an interview.

Customers face two ID-checks — including scans — before they can purchase products at licensed dispensaries in Vermont.

Fake IDs have become harder, or sometimes impossible, to use in recent months as many institutions use software from Bar & Club Stats, a software company. According to Vice, the company recently released a software update which can detect the fakes most underage students use.

“They initially let me in because my ID visibly looked real,” said a student under age 21 who tried to purchase marijuana from FLORA Cannabis using a fake ID. “But then when I was in line they asked me to scan it again and it didn’t work. They brought out the manager, and she was super respectful, but she basically said, ‘Yeah, we’re sorry, but if it’s not scanning we can’t let you through.’”

The State of Vermont regulates recreational marijuana sales via the Cannabis Control Board, created in 2020. Retail licenses to sell cannabis currently cost $10,000 and several review processes must be completed before a license is granted.

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Time will tell whether the legalization of selling recreational marijana will change its use at the college and in the local community. For now, it is clear that marijuana, while still prohibited on campus due to federal law, is in high demand in Middlebury.