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Montpelier’s First Recreational Cannabis Store Opens

Photo of storegront with door open
Recreational cannabis retailer Gram Central opened its doors in Montpelier Oct. 21. Photo by Carla Occaso.
MONTPELIER — During a laid-back grand opening, retail recreational cannabis store Gram Central opened its doors to customers Oct. 21. Located at 120 River Street, the store claims to be “Montpelier’s first cannabis dispensary.” That does not include Vermont Patients Alliance, which has been operating in Montpelier as a medical marijuana dispensary since around 2014. Vermont Patients Alliance has a sign on its door indicating the store, too, will be selling cannabis to adult recreational customers on an as-yet unknown date in the future.

On Oct. 21, Gram Central, also home to Vermont Security, had four people behind a long glass counter and no other customers when a reporter from The Bridge walked in around 4 p.m. Upon entering Gram Central, a customer is required to present identification, such as a driver’s license. This is scanned and put into a database. The customer then is free to shop. 

The workers at Gram Central offered warm greetings and plenty of help as far as explaining the products on the shelves. Little jars of cannabis flowers and gummies were on display. This writer bought a jar of non-intoxicating, THC-free elderberry CBD gummies labeled “Sleep gummies.” As the reporter was leaving, three cars pulled up with more customers.

This happy opening was a long time coming, as can be inferred from an interview with co-owner Jesse Harper two nights earlier. Harper looked ragged around the edges the night of Oct. 19 — around 6:30 p.m. — two days before the grand opening of his marijuana enterprise. Woodworker Jamie Joyner was still putting finishing touches on the interior structures in the display area of the store. Harper, owner of Vermont Security, told The Bridge he is excited “to be at this moment in time … in history … you know, cannabis prohibition ends. We think there is real potential for positive societal change.” He owns the store in partnership with Ben Jenkins.

shelves lined with cannabis products
Items including marijuana “flowers,” gummies, and other items are on display at recreational marijuana retailer Gram Central in Montpelier. Photo by Carla Occaso.
Harper said cannabis has been something that binds lots of society together and is used by different people for different reasons. “Everyone’s relationship with cannabis is personal and unique.” He went on to describe the people behind the business. He met his partner, Jenkins, through a network of friends. “We both have kids,” Harper said. Jenkins had worked at the Vermont Patients Alliance but had been fired for growing “a couple of” marijuana plants in his backyard, Harper said. This firing caused distress to Jenkins’s life to the point where Harper and Jenkins applied for their cannabis application under the “social equity” empowerment program aimed at people who had been “disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition” (in the words of the Cannabis Control Board) and suffered personal harm, but the cannabis board rejected the categorization. Instead, Harper said they got the permit under the “general” category, and had to pay a $10,000 fee. 

Harper said he was also involved with the cannabis industry before opening Gram Central. He was involved in the hemp program for the last couple of years. That program is administered by the Vermont Department of Agriculture, Food, and Markets. Additionally, Vermont Security has served the cannabis industry for ten years, he said.

The legalization of retail cannabis sales therefore has apparently allowed his business to come out of the shadows, although selling marijuana is still considered to be illegal by the federal government. Harper contends it is absurd that the sale of cannabis is federally illegal. Harper said he believes most people support the legalization of retail pot. Further, Harper has advocated in the Vermont Statehouse when lawmakers were framing the laws regarding legalization of retail marijuana sales. He advocated for keeping operations in the hands of small, local people rather than large corporate interests.

Montpelier is apparently a popular place for the marijuana sales industry. Two other locations in town will soon be offering retail marijuana: Capital Cannabis, owned by Lauren Andrews of AroMed, and the previously mentioned Vermont Patients Alliance, which is owned by Massachusetts-based Curaleaf Inc. 

Andrews’s operation received its license Oct. 20, and she announced on Facebook she will be opening for retail sales in a few weeks. Capital Cannabis is located at 44 Main Street. The Vermont Patients Alliance is located at 188 River Street, but no license to sell retail cannabis is listed on the Cannabis Control Board website as yet.

White man behind counter of store with yellow flowers in foreground.
Matthew Slaughter cheerfully offers advice at the grand opening of Gram Central, a retail recreational marijuana store in Montpelier, during the grand opening Oct. 21. Photo by Carla Occaso.

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