How To Open a Marijuana Dispensary in Vermont

Medical marijuana has been legal in Vermont since 2004. But medical dispensaries were not allowed to sell medical cannabis until 2011. Then, in 2018, the governor of Vermont signed a bill that legalized the possession and limited cultivation of recreational cannabis. 

By 2020, the state of Vermont opened the licensing process for recreational use marijuana businesses. Adult-use cannabis dispensaries started opening in Vermont in October 2022.

The legalization of recreational cannabis in Vermont is relatively new. As a result, the Vermont cannabis industry is an exciting place to start a cannabis dispensary. If you want to be part of this growing cannabis market, there are strict state and local marijuana laws you need to follow.

The Vermont Cannabis Control Board oversees cannabis establishments and cannabis business license applications in the state. The table below outlines regulations and compliance issues you should be aware of when opening a dispensary in Vermont.

Relevant Laws
  • The state legalized the use and commercial sale of medical marijuana by enacting Vermont Statute Title 18 Chapter 86
  • H.511 (Act 86) legalized limited cannabis cultivation and possession of small amounts of recreational marijuana in the state
  • In 2019, the Vermont Senate passed Act 164. This Act created the Cannabis Control Board (CCB) and established a regulatory framework for recreational marijuana retail sales
  • Act 158 further established the duties of the CCB
  • Act 167 automatically expunged low-level cannabis possession crimes in the state
  • In 2023, Act 270 established a new cannabis propagation license, allowed licensed cannabis businesses to partner with other licensed cannabis businesses, allowed licensed cannabis retailers to sell tobacco products without another license

Application Fees

  • Optional pre-qualification fee: $500 (non-refundable). This allows an applicant to see if they would be eligible to apply for a marijuana dispensary license before spending the $1,000 on the retailer application fee. If approved, then the fee applies as a credit to the application fee.
  • Application fee (retail only): $1,000 (non-refundable)
  • Licensing fee: $10,000
  • Registration identification card fee: $50 for each employee, financier, and owner of a dispensary
  • Reduced fees are available to applicants who qualify as a social equity applicant
  • The fees vary for each license and tier of license.
Types of Licenses

The state recognizes six cannabis license types that can be stacked. This means a business can have more than one type of license but not more than one license of the same type:

  • Cultivator license/Grower's license
  • Manufacturer license
  • Retail license
  • Wholesaler license
  • Testing laboratory license
  • Integrated license
Who Can I Sell To?

Recreational cannabis sales are only for adults 21 or older. Cannabis retail stores must verify this information by asking for an ID when the customer enters the store and again before selling any cannabis products to a customer.

Customers can order cannabis online but must pick the order up from your store. Delivery to customers is not available now.

Criminal History

The CCB will review your federal, Vermont, and out-of-state criminal records before it decides on your application. Record checks are $425. The CCB will reject your application if you have a pending charge or convicted of:

  • Violent felony
  • Violent misdemeanors within two years of the application
  • Nonviolent felony within five years of the application
  • Felony regarding fraud, theft, or embezzlement
  • Sexual exploitation of a child
  • Nonviolent conviction of drug distribution, which had a maximum sentence of 30 years
  • Distributing cannabis to someone under 21
  • Trafficking of another regulated substance (fentanyl, cocaine, or methamphetamines, as well as selling, possessing, or trafficking heroin)
  • Certain drug-related offenses
How Much Cannabis Can I Sell? A dispensary can sell up to one ounce of cannabis per customer.

Note: While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Who Issues the Licenses?

The Cannabis Control Board ensures Vermont dispensaries are compliant with state laws and regulations.

Can I Open My Dispensary Anywhere?

The law prohibits marijuana dispensaries from operating within 500 feet of a preexisting school or childcare facility.

Am I Limited in What I Can Sell at My Vermont Marijuana Dispensary?

Yes. Should you want to sell vape cartridges or products, you need another license to do so. Contact the Department of Liquor and Lottery for this license. Consuming cannabis and cannabis products in public is illegal in Vermont, so do not allow it on your premises.

What Should I Include in the Marijuana Dispensary Registration Application?

Vermont's application process is very stringent and very specific. Some of the documents you need to present to get a dispensary license include:

  • Proof of security measures to prevent and deter unauthorized entrance
  • Name, date of birth, and fingerprints of the owner and financer of the dispensary
  • Business plan and procedures for accurate record keeping
  • The address of the dispensary

The CCB also looks at several factors to determine whether you qualify for a license. Some of these factors include whether:

  • Your proposed location is within 500 feet of a school
  • You have the required experience to run a dispensary
  • You have a prohibited criminal history

The CCB has a guidance document that lists the requirements for new business owners to get their dispensary applications approved. This includes a certificate of good standing from the Department of Taxes, a certificate of occupancy, and a letter from the Division of Fire Safety if your location is not in a public building.

Are There Any Packaging Requirements?

If you own a marijuana dispensary, you must include a label on the packaging of the marijuana you sell. You can find the complete list of the labeling requirements via the CCB's guidance document on package labeling. You need the current health warning established by the Vermont Department of Health and Vermont Cannabis Control Board on your products.

Are There Any Marketing or Advertising Requirements?

Yes. There are many rules when it comes to your cannabis dispensary. You cannot create ads that would appeal to people under 21. There are also many stipulations, such as no false or misleading advertising or free samples.

Are the Laws Similar in All Vermont Cities?

The laws give broad discretion to municipalities to enact zoning ordinances that determine the manner of dispensary operations. Cities can choose to opt in or opt out of cannabis retail sales. Over 70 Vermont cities have opted-in, including Burlington and Middlebury. You must know the local laws before starting a cannabis business.

More Resources

Speak With a Vermont Business Attorney Before You Start Your Application

The marijuana industry is a rapidly growing industry. This is especially true in Vermont, where the laws are constantly changing. Consult with a Vermont cannabis business and commercial lawyer today to help you ensure compliance with the application process.

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