The Green Mountain State was the 11th in the country to legalize recreational cannabis after Vermont’s legislature passed bill S.54 (Act 164) in September of 2020 and Governor Phil Scott allowed its passage without his signature. Previously, Vermont had decriminalized cannabis posession in 2018, but stopped just short of enabling a legal, taxable market. However, it took two more years after S.54 passed for regulatory and retail infrastructure to be ready for business, and dispensaries only just opened in October of 2022.
Is Cannabis Legal in Vermont?
S.54 stipulates that registered medical cannabis patients and/or caregivers can cultivate up to two mature and seven immature cannabis plants, and that the resulting harvest won’t count towards the state’s two ounce posession limit. Recreational cannabis customers can purchase up to one ounce of cannabis flower per day, eight grams of concentrates and 800 milligrams of edibles.
Is it Legal to Market Cannabis in Vermont?
Vermont allows operators to advertise cannabis products—although, as in other legal states, there are cannabis marketing rules specifying how brands can reach customers. For example, 7 V.S.A. § 864. outlines that cannabis establishments can’t run misleading or deceptive ads, promote overconsumption, promise unproven health claims that cannabis can cure various conditions, use prizes or awards as purchase incentives, offer free samples or depict minors consuming cannabis.
There are also numerous advertising regulations that apply to cannabis operators but which do not come from Vermont lawmakers themselves. Because of federal prohibition, marketing channels overseen by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are off limits for cannabis brands, including radio and television broadcast.
Other national networks that aren’t regulated by the federal government ban most cannabis advertising, too, including Google and Facebook and many social media platforms. In part, that’s because it’s hard to guarantee that content on the internet that isn’t age-gated won’t be viewed by minors.
How to Legally Market Cannabis Brands in Vermont
Like other legal states including Michigan, Massachusetts, Arizona, New Mexico and New York, Vermont does not allow advertisements that might appeal to children, including “using objects, such as toys, inflatables, movie characters, cartoon characters, child-friendly depictions of food or other consumables.” Packaging must include warnings that products containing THC are not safe for kids and to keep such products out of reach of children.
Cannabis companies may have a long list of off-limits advertising channels, but they are free to apply marketing strategies to subscription-based media channels with a provable majority of adult users. That means Vermont-based cannabis companies can turn to owned media channels to advertise their products, including blogs, websites, white papers, opt-in newsletters and text message lists, podcasts and gated video content.
Dispensary Marketing in Vermont
Because the Vermont legal cannabis market is one of the newest in the country, there are only a handful of dispensaries open in Vermont. That number is sure to grow, however, now that the Green Mountain state is issuing licenses and Governor Scott greenlighted S. 25, a law that created the Cannabis Business Development Fund to support social equity license applicants.
So how can Vermont’s current and future cannabis retailers approach their marketing efforts? According to Vermont’s Regulation of Cannabis Establishments 2.1 Section 1, there’s more to staying compliant than ensuring packaging is on point. Outdoor advertisements, for example, should be presumed to have an audience that includes minors and curtail their content accordingly.
That includes “window displays, or items, text, or objects inside a retail Cannabis Establishment that are visible to a person standing outside the establishment,” unless stringent proof can be offered that minors constitute less than 15% of the viewing audience.
Cannabis Brand Marketing in Vermont
There are some workarounds to the limitations on where and how cannabis brands can display advertising and connect with potential customers. Dispensaries, cultivators and ancillary service providers alike can benefit from event marketing throughout the year. 4/20 is absolutely the biggest day of the year for cannabis marketing and retail across the country. Since the 1970s when “four twenty” first became short-hand for cannabis consumption, it’s become the industry’s best-known, most potent meme—and April 20th has become a de facto holiday for weed fans.
Although dispensaries have just started operating in Vermont, there’s already an exciting array of brands paving the way. Ceres, the first dispensary in Burlington, opened in the Vermont capital’s pedestrian-friendly College Street business district. Over on Pine Street, Green State Gardener dispensary was not far behind Ceres in receiving cultivation, wholesale and retail licenses for its dispensary in Burlington’s South End Arts District.
Outside of Burlington, dispensaries have been—or will be—popping up in the nearly 70 townshipsready to welcome the cannabis industry. Some are owned by big MSOs like Curaleaf and iAnthus. Others have a unique local flavor as distinctive as maple syrup or covered bridges. Take the Vermont Bud Barn in Brattleboro, for example. It’s a classic red barn like many across Robert Frost’s adopted state, but one that’s full not of dairy cows, but of dank buds for sale.
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From Lake Champlain to Highway 100, from ski slopes in Stowe to Smugglers’ Notch, Vermont is a state known for unparalleled natural beauty, a passion for locally crafted cheeses and farm-to-table fare, and pretty little villages punctuated by white steeples and weathered barns. Now Vermont is adding a new kind of foliage to its claims to fame—cannabis nugs as green as the mountains for which the 14th state is nicknamed.