Marijuana advocacy group to hire Vermont organizer

The Marijuana Policy Project is seeking a part-time organizer in Vermont to build support for a push toward legalization.

Matt Simon, New England political director for the national marijuana advocacy group, said the Vermont organizer will lead a “grass-tops” effort to build on the progress that led the Legislature to decriminalize possession of small amounts of the drug in 2013.

“That person will build support and focus on some key districts,” Simon said. He said he was unsure whether that would mean targeting certain candidates in the fall election. “We’ll have to wait and see after the filing date.”

Candidates for House and Senate must file petitions to appear on the ballot by June 12.

Simon said that the organizer might focus on finding high-profile, or grass-tops, Vermont supporters of legalization to participate in letter-to-the-editor campaigns and other events. He said the organizer would also begin to line up a series of public forums this summer. He also said there was no set budget for its Vermont effort, but that it would “certainly be limited.”

Sen. David Zuckerman, P-Chittenden. File photo by Hilary Niles/VTDigger

Sen. David Zuckerman, P-Chittenden. File photo by Hilary Niles/VTDigger

The group intends to support the reintroduction of a bill to legalize marijuana in January. The bill will likely resemble a proposal by Sen. David Zuckerman, P/D-Chittenden, that was not taken up last session.

That bill would have created a regulatory framework for the wholesale and retail sale of marijuana through the state Liquor Control Board. It called for a $50 per ounce excise tax on sales and established protections against sale to minors.

“Zuckerman’s bill was an excellent starting point,” Simon said. “We are looking at the Vermont Legislature to craft a policy that fits for Vermont. We will bring in data, making sure they have all the data produced by reputable parties.”

Simon said 2015 might not be too soon for Vermont to consider legalization. He said by then data from Colorado, which legalized pot on Jan. 1, would encompass a full year. Colorado officials say $50 million worth of marijuana were sold in the first three months, creating $7.3 million in state tax revenue (not including sales of medical marijuana and licensing fees), according to

Washington state residents voted to legalize marijuana through a ballot initiative, which won 55 percent of the vote. The retail sale of recreational marijuana in Washington won’t take effect until the state’s Liquor Control Board has a regulatory process in place, which could take until the end of this year.

Vermont lawmakers approved a bill last session that removed the cap on the number of patients who could qualify for receiving medical marijuana from the state’s four dispensaries, but elected not to increase the number of outlets. The bill, S.247, also approved a study on the costs and benefits of legalizing marijuana.

Gov. Peter Shumlin, who received $8,000 from the Marijuana Policy Project in the last election cycle, has said he is happy to wait for the results of legalization in Colorado and Washington before pursuing similar legislation in Vermont. He did, however, support the study.

“I think it does make sense for the Legislature to ask ‘If we were to go down this route, what would the implications be? What would the revenue impacts be?’” Shumlin said last month.

A recent Castleton Polling Institute survey for the MPP found that 57 percent of Vermonters support legalization and 34 percent oppose. The spring poll surveyed 607 people. National support for legalization has reached 52 percent, according to a recent Pew Research sample, and is growing. That led some Vermont observers to wonder if the liberal state’s majority was lower than might have been expected.

“That’s in line with what we’re seeing nationally, slightly better than the national average,” Simon said of the poll results. “It shows that there’s not a lot of strong opposition in Vermont.”

Tom Brown


  1. Brian Kelly :

    Don’t be fooled by “decriminalization” because citizens are still going to be treated like common criminals for marijuana under it. This is what Kevin Sabet wants.

    Citizens will STILL be forced to the dangerous black market and a shady illegal street drug dealer to purchase their marijuana. Getting caught buying it is STILL a crime they will arrest and jail you for. Then, they will also FORCE you to mandatory rehab, and if you don’t comply, guess what? JAILTIME!

    No thanks!

    Also, we will still be wasting our tax dollars sending police around to ticket marijuana users and wasting police manpower and resources.

    Instead of allowing our police the time, manpower and resources to protect us all from real, dangerous criminals who actually commit crimes with victims and pose a real threat to society.

    Why else do you think they are so EAGER to “decriminalize”, instead of LEGALIZE?

    Don’t Let’em Fool You!!!


  2. Fred Woogmaster :

    Given the full context of the marijuana story, legalization, with taxation and control, is the only rational approach.

    Legalization now!

  3. Wayne Andrews :

    I guess we can legalize it and allow the “seller” to stand on a corner next to a school.

    • Neil Gerdes :

      Wayne, alcohol is legal. Can you stand on a corner next to a school to sell alcohol?

      • Jim Barrett :

        How would the quality of dope be controlled when so many states have not legalized it? How will our children be safe from pot cookies and drinks loaded with pot? Will ther state have to hire a few more thousands employees to run this dope fest? How many million will have to be spent on rehab clinics on a already overtaxed population?

        • Neil Gerdes :

          are the children safe from pot now? And just how many people do you think go to rehab for pot? Some but not many.

        • Jeff Laughlin :

          Same way we keep ours kids safe from wine-coolers.

  4. Carl Marcinkowski :

    Very succinct message, Brian.
    To preemptively address just a few of the common concerns/ arguments against legalization;

    What about the children?
    Not everything is for children. We have alcohol, motor vehicles, firearms, heavy equipment, full time jobs. Do we remove anything in society that may be dangerous to children? Or do we have laws to exclude them until a certain age and educate them on the proper care and safety of these subjects?

    It is addictive. Scientific studies show this to be less of a problem than with many other devices adults enjoy. If a person were of a nature to become addicted to cannabis the effects of withdrawal are minor, much less so than with caffeine.

    It’s a gateway drug. Again, science says this is not true. When understanding this it’s important to remember that correlation does not equal causation. Because a heroin addict admits to trying pot at a young age does not correlate to everyone who tries cannabis. Most motorcycle related criminal enterprises (gangs) members had bicycles as a child. Do bicycles gateway a child to a life of crime?

    Smoking is smoking and it causes cancer and other very serious illnesses. There are bad things in cannabis smoke. Science has found that tobacco is much worse, plus the amount normally smoked is minutely fractional compared to a cigarette smoker. Also, people concerned with this health issue can and do use alternative delivery systems such as vaporizers or edibles.

    There is a reasonable argument against any of the rest of the hysterical and reasonable questions about the effects of using cannabis. I would confine most of your research to documented scientific findings and avoid sources with a conflict of interest in the subject of cannabis legalization.

  5. Rep. Tom Koch :

    Just what we need–another out-of-state pressure group hiring a lobbyist to push its agenda. If marijuana is going to be legalized, let Vermonters make that decision in their own good time, but take your big out-of-state bucks and spend them somewhere else!

    As to the issue itself, I’ve never been persuaded that legalizing a substance whose purpose is to mess with one’s brain is a good idea. Every addict and every drug counselor I’ve spoken with tells me that this is a move to be avoided.

    • Jason Wells :

      Yes just what we need indeed. Unfortunately this is what has to happen when our Rep’s etc. wont follow the will of the people. Ya remember those pesky people who voted for you?

      “I’ve never been persuaded that legalizing a substance whose purpose is to mess with one’s brain is a good idea.”

      Really?? If that is true perhaps you should be pushing for alcohol prohibition as well??

    • Jason Farrell :

      …says the attorney from Hackensack, NJ. Thank you for your many years of service, but I’m glad you chose to make this year your last in the legislature, Rep. Koch. Enjoy your retirement.

    • Fred Woogmaster :

      Alcohol, Representative Koch?

      THE most destructive drug in our society.
      Bar none!

  6. Wayne Andrews :

    Neil, the next time your dentist starts the drill please advise him/her to take a toke or two to see if there can be some artistic design to the newly found craters in your teeth.

    • Neil Gerdes :

      Wayne, what’s stopping that now? The dentist or doctor or airline pilot could be drunk too. Your arguments are invalid.

  7. Paul Lutz :

    Why do they call it dope again?

    You want to make pot legal, fine. But eliminate ALL forms of welfare with the exception of a single mom ( with limits) and vets ( no limits)

    By all means make yourself dumb and sit home watching southpark, but dont expect to get a dime of “assistance” money.

  8. This is why we need a local representative here in VT.To debunk the myths and outright lies our govt. has been feeding us for years.
    We are not a bunch of idiots that get high and do nothing with our lives, we are productive members of society that come from all walks of life, age groups, and social classes.
    Alcohol is a much more dangerous drug with many deaths per year whereas cannabis has no deaths directly caused by ingesting the plant itself wether smoked, vaped, or eaten. How many people are on public assistance and drink themselves into a coma every day while neglecting their children?
    Time to wake up people and choose the safer alternative. 58% of America agrees with legalization and it will happen nationwide soon enough…

  9. Paul Lutz :

    Alternative?? Were you smoking when you wrote that?

  10. Scott Richardson :

    With respect I ask, could VTD please explain why this article is filed under Courts & Corrections? Thank you.

    Sincerely, Scott

    • Cate Chant :

      We have a limited number of categories. Some stories don’t fit particularly well in any of them, but for technical reasons every story needs to be categorized. This was put in Courts & Corrections because of the general illegality of marijuana. I suppose it could have been put in the Politics category too.
      Cate Chant



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