Decision delayed on cannabis festival

Organizers are planning to hold the first Green Mountain Cannabis Festival at Layla’s Riverside Lodge in Dover, seen here in a photo taken from the lodge’s Facebook page.

DOVER - On Tuesday, the Dover Selectboard delayed a decision regarding their support of the Green Mountain Cannabis Festival, which is proposed to be held July 1 at Layla’s Riverside Lodge. Event organizers Jim Desrochers and Sandy MacDougall asked the board for $14,000 in 1% economic development funds and a letter of support, which they would need for their state permitting application for the event. The board did not make a decision on either request, instead asking for more information in advance of the board’s next meeting May 15.
The $14,000 contribution would comprise approximately 40% of the festival’s overall budget. The festival, which as proposed would occur on the same day that possession and cultivation of marijuana becomes legal in Vermont, was described by economic development director Steve Neratko as “an educational and entertainment event celebrating the legalization of cannabis in Vermont.” Neratko said Desrochers and MacDougall plan to market the event nationally and have estimated that 2,500 people will attend.
“This type of tourism is growing nationwide, regionally, and in Vermont,” said Desrochers. “We feel this event will have a strong economic impact on the area beyond just this one event. We think it’ll bring in additional people to the area that’ll then come back to the area to ski.”
Vice chair Vicki Capitani said she couldn’t support approving 1% funds for the festival because the request was coming in short of the board’s policy of requiring event funding requests be submitted at least 180 days before an event.
At the board’s last meeting, two organizations, Wings and the Living History Association, requested funds for events happening in shorter time frames. At the time, Capitani made a motion to fund the Wings request out of the general fund, saying she felt the town should be supporting Wings, and said she would not support economic development funds for the Living History Association due to the timing.
This week, Capitani said she felt she had to stand by her position. “I made a big deal at last week’s meeting about a much smaller event that came in on too short a timeline,” said Capitani. “What was proposed by Living History and Dover Historical was a much smaller scale, but I didn’t think they had enough time to plan it and vet it. The timeline alone is enough for me to say I cannot support this.”
Chair Josh Cohen noted that since Desrochers and MacDougall were making two requests, one for funding and one for a letter of support, the board could give a letter without the funding. Board member Joe Mahon said he didn’t feel he had enough information to make a decision on either request. “I’m not set against it, but I don’t have enough information to make any type of decision,” said Mahon. “I don’t know logistically how you’re going to have 2,500 people on (Layla’s Riverside Lodge’s) property. If we’re a major sponsor, if it flops, we flop. ”
In addition to a letter of support from the board, Desrochers and MacDougall will need letters of support from police, fire, and rescue personnel. To that end, at a point in the discussion, attention in the room turned to police chief Randy Johnson, who has been outspoken about his opposition to a proposed medical marijuana dispensary in the town.
“I see all eyes are on me,” said Johnson. “I don’t want to be the one that tells a business what they can and cannot do unless I see that it’s a major safety issue. But I need to see where parking is going to be, and I’d like to see a site map.”
Johnson did note, however, that “we are still talking about a federally illegal drug,” and that in addition to a site plan, he would need to get a more thorough understanding of what strain the festival may put on his police force and how those additional costs would be handled.
Desrochers and MacDougall said they would get more information to the board and to Johnson in advance of the board’s next meeting, which is scheduled for Tuesday, May 15, at 6:30 pm at Dover’s town office.

The Deerfield Valley News

797 VT Route 100 North
Wilmington, VT 05363

Phone: 802-464-3388
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