Gov. Phil Scott announced Monday his picks for Vermont’s three-member Cannabis Control Board, which will regulate the state’s new marijuana marketplace.
James Pepper, a deputy state’s attorney for the Department of State’s Attorneys and Sheriffs, will chair the board.
Julie Hulburd, human resources director at the Vermont Student Assistance Corp. and chair of the state ethics commission, will serve on the panel.
Kyle Harris, an agriculture development specialist at the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, has also been appointed as a board member.
“The board will play a critical role in ensuring public safety, equity and fairness while implementing this new market,” Scott said in a statement Monday evening. “James, Julie and Kyle bring diverse and relevant experience to the (board) and I’m confident they will hit the ground running when they get to work in the coming days.”
The three nominees are subject to approval by the Vermont Senate.
The control board will have considerable influence over the new marijuana industry. It will be responsible for issuing licenses to cannabis businesses, including retail stores, growing facilities and testing labs.
It will also make recommendations to state policymakers on industry regulations, fees and how to improve social equity within Vermont’s cannabis market.
Under the 2020 law that established a taxed and regulated marijuana market, retail marijuana shops can open up as soon as October 2022.
Scott’s appointment of the board comes two and a half months later than legislators had planned. Under the timeline set out in last year’s marijuana law, Scott was supposed to select board members by Jan. 8, and the Senate was supposed to confirm them a week later.
Some lawmakers have raised concerns that the delay in appointing the board members could push back the rollout of the marijuana market by up to a year.
That’s because the board is supposed to make recommendations to the Legislature this spring on its annual budget, environmental and land use requirements for cannabis establishments, and proposed cannabis fees.
If lawmakers don’t receive and approve those recommendations by May when they are scheduled to adjourn, the timeline could be pushed back. However, a bill passed by the Senate last week aims to prevent a possible market delay.
The governor said that Pepper, the board chair, has been involved in several criminal justice reform initiatives in recent years, including bail reform, expansion of crime-expungement eligibility and new use-of-force standards for police.
Pepper is also on Vermont’s Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice System Advisory Panel, the Sentencing Commission, and the Juvenile Justice Advisory Panel.
Scott’s office said that Hulburd has more than 20 years of human resources experience, including 12 years working in municipal governments. Hulburd was previously the human resources manager for the Burlington city government, and from 2016 to 2019 was human resources manager for the Winooski city government, according to her LinkedIn profile.
Harris’ work for the agriculture department has focused on “dairy innovation, maple initiatives and hemp business development,” according to the governor’s press release. “He has worked closely with the Agency of Commerce and Community Development as a liaison between agencies to facilitate policy and economic discussion throughout Vermont’s agriculture portfolio.”
Before joining the agriculture department, Harris was the associate counsel for environmental affairs at the Corn Refiners Association in Washington, D.C.
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