cannabis equity, in our own words.
Meristem Farms, Co-Founder and President was invited as part of Rural Vermont / NOFA-VT Cannabis Day of Advocacy along with members from the Vermont Cannabis Coalition, including VT Racial Justice Alliance and the Vermont Grower’s Association, to give testimony before a joint hearing with House Committee on Agriculture and Forestry and Senate Agriculture Committee of the State of Vermont regarding cannabis equity and S.188.
The following is the testimony read aloud to the session and submitted into record on 02/10/2022 :
- Thank-you for this opportunity to speak with you today.
- It’s great to see both the House and Senate’s Committees on Agriculture and Forestry here today along with my fellow farmers and advocates.
- For the record, my name is Jen Daniels, I am President and Co-founder of Meristem Farms. I have farmed hemp commercially for three years in various parts of the state.
- Before I became a hemp farmer and business owner in Vermont, I worked for over 20 years in public service in community development, race relations, and as a landscape architect designing public spaces to promote social equity.
- From that experience I learned that one of the most important factors in supporting social equity—probably THE most important—is meaningful economic opportunity.
- The launch of Vermont’s new cannabis market is a historic moment for developing that kind of meaningful economic opportunity, especially in outdoor cultivation where those who lack access to large amounts of capital have a real shot at creating that abundance and building inter-generational wealth, and at the same time preserve working lands.
- But that opportunity will be lost if the barriers to access are not removed:
- TODAY, I WILL SHARE TWO SOLUTIONS TO THOSE BARRIERS
- FIRST, All outdoor cultivation must be considered “farming” under state law and thus not restricted by Act 250 and local zoning. Such restrictions have been used all too often to restrict access and as a tool of racial discrimination.
- A SECOND SOLUTION TO THOSE BARRIERS TO ACCESS:
- The State needs to support Community Land Trusts and other alternative models to land ownership and land access*.
- As land values skyrocket, this is becoming increasingly necessary to ensure access to those without large amounts of capital—not just in cannabis but in all agriculture.
- 4 years ago I left public service and moved to Vermont to start a hemp farming business, because of Vermont’s working-land ethic and the economic opportunity this presented for my husband, our three teenage kids and me.
- We have privilege because we are white, and had some access to modest capital to get started.
- States all over the country are struggling to get ‘social equity’ right in cannabis but because of Vermont’s commitment to working lands, economic opportunity AND racial and social justice we have a golden opportunity RIGHT NOW to become a model for the nation in how this CAN work.
- Thank-you for your time and attention!
*Examples of land trust and equity models
(thanks also to Grace Gershuney for compiling a portion of this list):