When the Legislature returns in January one of the lingering “objectives” is to figure out how to establish a retail market for the sale of cannabis in Vermont.

The possession of pot, and the ability to grow it, was made legal in 2018, but the Legislature and Gov. Phil Scott haven’t agreed how to create in Vermont what they have in Colorado and a number of other states that have put a commercial “tax and regulate” system in place.

When the consideration first began advocates made the commercial potential seem like a revenue windfall for the state, an easy way to generate upwards of $70 million for the state’s coffers. Vermonters were already smoking pot; opting for a commercial market would not only bring in some needed cash, it would give the state a way to regulate the product and its use.

Clearly, the major step for most Vermonters was making the possession of pot legal and enabling people to grow it for themselves, and a bit more as a “gift” to others. The result has been a supply of pot that has more than satisfied demand and no one is going to jail.

The push to create the commercial market still exists, obviously, but the excitement to do so has faded. The claims of a large revenue source have evaporated. It’s no longer a new frontier, as states around us have joined the throng.

But what lurks in the background is the growing concern about the public’s health and how stepping into the cannabis world has created circumstances that were not anticipated. The legalization of pot has come about just as vaping has become a thing. The combination of the two — using cannabis concentrates with vaping products — has been found, in a number of cases, to be deadly.

The cannabis market is huge and becoming bigger by the day. It’s a market and markets fill vacuums. It didn’t take much of a leap for people to figure out how to take two unrelated things — pot and vaping tools — and combine them.

According to the data collected, vaping THC concentrates is now the second most popular way to consume pot. The vaping cartridges are pre-packaged, thus users don’t know for sure what they are getting. The threat is now apparent as the public becomes more aware of the number of people who have been stricken by the process.

It’s a given that the states that have legalized the use of pot — including Vermont — will not retreat. The recreational use of pot is probably here to stay. But one would think there would be an overriding push to figure out how to regulate the potency of THC compounds. One would think, given the number of reported deaths and sickness, that we’d figure out a way to deal with people vaping THC concentrates.

How that is managed is still to be figured out, but from Vermont’s perspective maybe it’s been a good thing that we’ve dragged our feet on the issue of a commercial market for pot. We know now that the tax revenue money isn’t there, and we know now that the attendant health issues are monumental. If we’ve made pot legal to consume and to grow individually, isn’t that enough? And will we move to a commercial “tax and regulate” system knowing the landscape has become more deadly? Let’s hope not.

by Emerson Lynn