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Vermont’s legal cannabis licenses open new avenues for Upper Valley businesses

  • PJ Eames, left, owner of Sunday Drive, talks to Amy Lems, owner of Vermont Organic Solutions, at Sunday Drive in Woodstock, Vt., on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. Lems, who is based in Norwich, Vt., makes health and beauty products both with and without CBD, and plans to expand to products that include THC. “We’ve all worked so hard to get to this point,” Lems said of the small scale cannabis growers, manufacturers and retailers throughout the state. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News / Report For America — Alex Driehaus

  • A Cave Lion Skunk cannabis flower sits in a display box that allows customers to look at it closely and smell it before making a purchase at Sunday Drive in Woodstock, Vt., on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. Owner PJ Eames said that she encourages customers to come in and ask questions, regardless of their familiarity with cannabis products. “They specialize in novice here,” Amy Lems said of the knowledgable and friendly staff members. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • PJ Eames, left, owner of Sunday Drive, looks at the packaging for Amy Lems’ Vermont Organic Solutions THC gummies that she hopes to stock at the dispensary once Lems’ application to sell THC products is approved by the State of Vermont Cannabis Control Board, at Sunday Drive in Woodstock, Vt., on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. Eames also owns Clover Gift Shop in Woodstock where she sells a variety of CBD products. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News / Report For America — Alex Driehaus

  • Cannabis products and accessories sit in a display case at Sunday Drive in Woodstock, Vt., on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. The shop opened in mid-November and is the first retail cannabis location in the Upper Valley. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 12/1/2022 10:06:18 PM
Modified: 12/2/2022 10:27:37 PM

NORWICH — Amy Lems, of Vermont Organic Solutions, aims to help improve people’s quality of life while dealing with pain.

Lems, 52, founded her Norwich-based company in 2010 to focus on creating remedies for pain and ailments using natural, organic, sustainable, eco-certified, low-toxicity products.

In 2018, CBD sales became legal in Vermont. CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a chemical found in marijuana plants that has non-psychoactive effects. Lems began working on perfecting a recipe for topical medicine to manage localized pain “with the idea that (marijuana) legalization was on the horizon.”

Lems, who suffers from a connective tissue disorder that causes her chronic pain, found she was unable to find affordable products that she needed, so she found a way to make them herself.

“I do what I do because I need what I make,” she said. “It’s really astounding how effective the CBD-based topicals are.”

Now Lems’ business has become the first in the Upper Valley to be licensed by the Vermont Cannabis Control Board to manufacture products made with cannabis for retail sale.

Tetrahydrocannabinol, known as THC, is the main psychoactive component of cannabis and also has properties that can help people manage pain, Lems said. She wants to make products for “someone like me who’s got pain that’s not addressed by normal avenues or doesn’t want to use pharmaceuticals.”

Vermont was the 11th state to legalize the sale of recreational cannabis products to adults age 21 and over. The state first, in 2018, allowed possession and cultivation. Then, in October 2020, Gov. Phil Scott allowed a bill passed by the Legislature to become law, making way for sales and beginning the licensing process. This spring, business owners were able to apply for licenses and on Oct. 1, legal cannabis sales began.

The Upper Valley’s first licensed cannabis retailer, Sunday Drive, is located at 442 Woodstock Road in Woodstock, next to Worthy Kitchen. Sunday Drive offers buyers flowers, edibles, tinctures and cannabis-related accessories. It is open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. every day except Wednesday.

Patricia (P.J) Eames has owned Clover Gift Shop in Woodstock since 2008. In 2017 the shop began to offer CBD products. At that time she did, “a lot of educating the community about the benefits,” Eames said. From there, she said it was a natural progression toward a dispensary.

When the doors of Sunday Drive opened, Eames said, “I didn’t know what to expect. It’s been a really nice steady flow of people.”

“The Bud Bar” at Sunday Drive offers customers 12 different strains to examine, all grown in Vermont from neighboring towns including Barnard, Bridgewater, Woodstock, Chelsea and Hartland.

But many business owners are still awaiting licenses, including Ralph Farnsworth, 41, of Windsor, who plans to open DePot Shop on Depot Avenue in downtown Windsor.

Farnsworth redid the interior of the building with locally sourced repurposed lumber giving the shop what he calls a “gallery feel.” Once all inspections are cleared, Farnsworth said, the store will be open for sale to the public. He hopes his business will help develop his hometown.

All products that will be sold at DePot Shop upon opening will be sourced from local growers ranging from Hartland to Sutton, Vt.

“You keep that kind of open-line community where we can all help each other in our own growth and prosperities,” Farnsworth said.

Legal access will open up opportunities for consumers, so they can better understand what they are buying than on the black market, he argued.

“I think, this year, it’s really, it’s going to open up an avenue for everybody where there’s convenience, there’s safety,” Farnsworth said.

After the shop is up and running Farnsworth has ambitions to develop a large-scale production operation in a warehouse space he is working to revitalize. Currently, growers who are supplying retailers don’t have large quantities available. Farnsworth said no one he’s talked to has large quantities, likely because the state issued licenses so late in the growing season.

Once the grow operation is developed, Farnsworth said he expects to need to fill about 60 positions to keep the business running. His vision overall is to be a productive and positive influence in his hometown, and his family’s hometown for generations.

“The big (reason) is exactly that, it’s community (...) it’s where I grew up,” he said of his reasons for setting up shop in Windsor.

Both Farnsworth and Lems, while selling cannabis products for different reasons, see the potential of the market to invest in communities and to help people to build the local economy and grow opportunities.

Lems said the cannabis industry offers potential for new businesses and economic security for young people who wish to stay in Vermont.

“Some of the young people in Vermont, instead of having them leave this beautiful state, give them a reason to stay, and hemp farming, that’s a great reason,” she said. “They can make a good living and stay living in a beautiful place that they love. I think it has a ton of potential.”

Laura Koes can be reached at laurakoesjournalism@gmail.com.


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