US (VT): Cannabis compliance agents ensure that growers know and follow the rules

Michael DiTomasso, an unassuming 32-year-old with an environmental science degree, is one of four people whose job it is to inspect cannabis businesses and report back to the Vermont Cannabis Control Board. He and his clipboard-carrying colleagues have been crisscrossing the state this summer in an attempt to visit more than 240 cannabis businesses now licensed in Vermont.

That DiTomasso looks more like a hip high school teacher than some Federal Bureau of Investigation recruit is by design. While the control board's primary task is to ensure that the legal cannabis industry operates safely and fairly, it must also build trust with a community generally suspicious of the government, which is natural, considering the plant's patchwork legal status across the United States. That means the agents take an education-first approach and sometimes even offer technical support.

It's an odd position for the regulators, who find themselves both industry cheerleaders and rule enforcers. But it's a stance that the board said it must embrace if it hopes to convince some longtime illicit cannabis growers to go legit.

"We know we have good growers out there in Vermont; they're legendary, to some degree. But this is an industry that has thrived in an unregulated space," control board chair James Pepper said. "To get them into the market, they have to take this leap of faith with us."

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