Vermont’s handful of medical marijuana dispensaries have exclusive permission to grow and sell marijuana in the state. If and when lawmakers legalize non-medical weed, they will likely have a head start on a very profitable industry.
From the outside, Shayne Lynn’s 2,800-square-foot building in Milton looks more like an insurance company’s headquarters than a marijuana production plant. Inside, thousands of marijuana plants grow under artificial light. Some are secured behind glass windows, others obscured inside shipping containers.
“We’ve been here probably roughly two years in this building now,” Lynn says as he walks upstairs. “So I would say every month there’s something new going on.”
Near a commercial kitchen, people assemble vape pens and place lozenges into packaging. Lynn’s 50 employees take cannabis from tiny clones and get it into customers’ hands.
That is how lawmakers and officials wanted it. State law allows five dispensaries to grow, process and sell medical marijuana. Each is assigned to a region, and patients have to commit to one dispensary. There is virtually no competition outside of the black market and home growing.
“That would be an oligopoly,” explains Sara Solnick, chair of economics at University of Vermont, in response to a description of the current system. An oligopoly is a market controlled by just several businesses. [Read more at Vermont Public Radio]