By MADELINE HUGHES
There’s a new storefront at the corner of Shelburne and Hullcrest roads.
The front window is decked with a neon “open” sign and a hand-drawn poster. Inside, Bob Marley tunes play in the background and art hangs on the walls.
South Burlington artist and entrepreneur Jordan Holstein sits behind a counter in his new shop, Sweet G Smoke Shop, that opened on Sept. 1.
Business is growing slowly, Holstein said last week.
“Business has been pretty good. We are just getting the word out,” Holstein said.
The smoke shop sells marijuana paraphernalia, e-cigarette vaporizers, cannabidiol (CBD) products as well as his paintings and clothing he designs.
In anticipation of marijuana legalization, which Vermont legislators legalized in January and took effect in July, Holstein decided he wanted to open up his own head shop – a retail store that sells paraphernalia that could be used for marijuana or tobacco.
He had previously managed a Burlington head shop, and decided to venture out on his own to be able to sell his art as well.
Holstein recalled that when he was looking at the space for his store, “someone was looking at the location next to me and asked, ‘What about a smoke shop here?’” That helped seal his choice to open up on Shelburne Road. “With (marijuana) being legalized, if I didn’t do this someone else would.”
Holstein said he saw Burlington’s market for similar stores as “kind of tapped.” So, with thousands of cars driving by a day, Shelburne Road seemed like a good choice. He also pointed out that the number of retirement communities in Shelburne are a good potential market for his CBD products.
“I’m not into prescription pills” for pain, Holstein said. Instead he looks for natural alternatives. CBD is a component of cannabis and is used for its pain-relief, anti-inflammatory and even anti-anxiety properties.
Opening the shop came with its challenges. In the development review process with the town, the landlord was required to add more parking spaces and pave the parking lot. Holstein said he saw that as the town “pushing us back.”
According to Development Review Board minutes from July 18, the building previously had restrictions set in 2006 that said the applicant must come back to the board if there are “changes in use or intensity to the existing approved businesses.”
This summer, the Selectboard asked Interim Town Manager Lee Krohn to look into an ordinance to ban head shops. Krohn checked with the Vermont League of Cities and Towns for guidance.
Carl Andeer, an attorney with the league, said there is no statute that authorizes municipalities to ban recreational smoking generally in a town and there is no authority for towns to ban “head shops.”
Marijuana was legalized in Vermont in July. The law allows individuals to possess up to one ounce of marijuana for personal use, but it remains illegal to sell pot for recreational use. Medical marijuana is sold through state-regulated dispensaries.
Holstein’s shop sells accessories for smoking activities and CBD products.
The question of writing an ordinance circulated in Shelburne since 2016, said Shelburne Planning Director Dean Pierce. “I believe some of the impetus came from a resident who was concerned legislative changes being discussed on the state level might leave towns vulnerable,” Pierce said in an email. “My recollection is that [Planning] Commission members did not see the issue as one they needed to tackle.”
The Selectboard ultimately decided to hold off on creating a new ordinance to ban head shops in Shelburne. Members agreed did not want to spark a new legal battle over an ordinance.
“This doesn’t mean we endorse it,” Krohn said. “But we can’t tell people what to sell.”