Gardener’s Supply Co. founder Will Raap is silhouetted by a Vermont Cannabis Collaborative slide show in Brattleboro on Monday promoting state legalization of marijuana. Photo by Kevin O’Connor/for VTDigger

BRATTLEBORO — Will Raap recalls one of the first customers at his three-decade-old Gardener’s Supply Company — a shopper with “a wallet full of dollar bills” seeking indoor lights, organic soil and total anonymity.
“At some level, my business has always been in the legal side of selling products so people can grow their own … whatever,” he says. “We always knew there was a business opportunity there.”
But cultivating prohibited plants such as marijuana can be challenging. That’s why Raap and six other entrepreneurs have formed the Vermont Cannabis Collaborative, which kicked off the first of a series of statewide meetings this week in hopes of spurring the 2016 Legislature to legalize the drug.
Vermont approved medical-marijuana use for patients with cancer, multiple sclerosis and AIDS in 2004, authorized dispensaries in 2011, and decriminalized personal possession of up to an ounce in 2013.
“I think the momentum is growing,” Sen. Jeanette White, D-Windham, said at the beginning of Monday night’s meeting in Brattleboro. “My concern is that it happen the Vermont way. For many of us, that means keeping it small, local and controlled.”
The Senate Government Operations Committee that White chairs hopes to consider a bill this winter while Gov. Peter Shumlin, who has expressed openness to such efforts, is still in office. As a result, she listened attentively as collaborative members addressed a Windham County crowd of more than 50 people at the downtown River Garden.
“If we don’t do it in 2016, we will miss a big opportunity,” ” Raap said. “I see it as the next interesting industry for Vermont. It’s time to get creative about how we do this.”
Raap sits on the seven-person collaborative alongside Coffee Enterprises president Daniel Cox, Solidarity of Unbridled Labour principal Michael Jager, Highland Sugarworks founder Judy MacIsaac Robertson, former Chittenden County state senator Hinda Miller, Magic Hat Brewing Co. founder Alan Newman and Burlington professor Rob Williams.
“The reality of cannabis becoming legalized in Vermont is going to happen,” Miller said. “We see it as a wonderful job creator and a way to …Read More