If the Legislature passes the commercial cannabis bill, the setup costs alone will add almost another $1 million to a 2021 budget deficit that is already an estimated $430 million. Also, explosions at marijuana processing plants over the weekend raise questions about Vermont producers’ use of flammable ethanol for extracting THC from marijuana plants.
“Thanks to Covid-19, the State of Vermont faces a $430 million budget deficit for 2021. S54 allocates $810,000 to establish a cannabis control board and regulatory system. It also recognizes the setup costs won’t be covered by fees or sales because the licensing and retail process would take several years. So it lets the program borrow state revenue against hoped-for future earnings – in effect, to deficit spend. Many Vermont lawmakers already concerned about the adverse health, educational, public safety and economic impact of commercial marijuana may be highly skeptical about growing the deficit by $1 million-plus while Vermont state employees, businesses and taxpayers are being told they must do more with less. Vermonters asking the Legislature “buddy, can you spare a dime?” for basic education, housing, food and employment assistance may wonder at a Legislature willing to front almost $1 million to create a legal industry surrounded by so much controversy and so many question marks."
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