The number of jurisdictions that are willing to house adult-use cannabis dispensaries nearly doubled overnight in Vermont.

More than 40 communities voted on whether to allow the state’s forthcoming retail industry to operate within their borders during “Town Meeting Day” on March 1, and 25 of those towns and cities approved their measures, VT Digger reported.

Those communities join more than 33 Vermont municipalities that have already approved retail cannabis operations before this week, according to the Vermont League of Cities and Towns (VLCT).

“It’s a very important moment for Vermont,” James Pepper, chair of the Vermont Cannabis Control Board, told VT Digger. “We want Vermonters to be able to access this product close to their home as opposed to having these cannabis deserts around Vermont.” 

Essex, the second-largest community in Vermont and the biggest to hold a cannabis-related vote Tuesday, approved the sale of adult-use cannabis, 3,589-2,473, on Tuesday, the news outlet reported.

Also among the larger localities to approve measures Tuesday were Barre, Bristol, Hartford, Manchester, Milton and Springfield.

While the Vermont Legislature legalized adult-use cannabis via House Bill 511 (Act 86) in January 2018, adult-use sales by licensed retailers aren’t scheduled to launch until October 2022.

The act removes civil and criminal penalties for the possession of up to 1 ounce of cannabis and allows home grows by adults 21 and older. Certain provisions of the legislation became effective on July 1, 2018.

But the regulatory framework and licensure for commercial operators have represented one of the slowest roll-outs in the nation.

Community participation will play a role in ensuring that roll-out is successful, VLCT officials stated on their website.

“VLCT has been trying to convince policymakers in Montpelier that towns need a share of the tax and fee revenues from these new retail operations,” VLCT officials said in a Feb. 24, 2022, release. “So far, that request, while supported in the Senate, has been opposed in the House.”

This year, a bill passed in the House that caps municipal fees on cannabis operations to $100 while capping state fees at $100,000, according to VLCT.

Businesses that plan to operate in communities that have approved cannabis operations can start applying for a state license on April 1.