NORML says Shumlin is a “standout” supporter of pot reform

A national marijuana advocacy group says Gov. Peter Shumlin is one of three sitting governors in the last 40 years to aggressively support cannibas legal reform and the only current up and coming politician with national reach to push for the decriminalization of pot possession.

NORML, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that has advocated for legalization of marijuana for 42 years, will give Shumlin $2,000 this week. (The governor phoned the organization recently and asked for the maximum contribution of $6,000 for a political action committee. NORML typically gives candidates about $500.)

Allen St. Pierre, executive director of NORML, wrote a blog post last week about the organization’s contribution to Shumlin and enthusiastically encouraged members of the advocacy group to send their donations directly to the Vermont governor.

Shumlin is cashing in on the pot crowd because he is, according to St. Pierre, a “standout” candidate. No one since Jimmy Carter, who supported decriminalization of marijuana in the 1970s as governor of Georgia, has been as likely to push for legal reforms that could have an impact on the national scene, he said.

The governor’s interest in pressing for decriminalization in Vermont is impressive, according to St. Pierre, even though last year’s effort failed when House Speaker Shap Smith rejected a legislative proposal. What really jazzed the NORML board though is the governor’s willingness to go public on the decriminalization. Shumlin gave a notable speech in support of marijuana reforms at a drug policy conference last year. The governor’s Beltway ambitions don’t hurt, either,Shumlin is in the running for the chairmanship of the Democratic Governors Association.

“Shumlin gets it, and in his capacity as governor, he is trying to use that bully pulpit,” St. Pierre said.

Sen. Randy Brock, the GOP contender for governor, blasted Shumlin last week in news reports about the governor’s solicitation of a contribution from NORML.

“Obviously, the governor and I don’t agree,” Brock said. “It’s kind of astounding to me that the governor would go out and approach NORML in order to get money from an organization whose end goal is to legalize marijuana — not just decriminalize it. I just find it very inappropriate.”

Brock says he doesn’t favor locking up first time marijuana users. Decriminalization, however, he says is “just one step toward legalization.” At a time when the state has “such a drug problem” with the highest per capita marijuana use among teens in the country, Brock said, “this sends a terrible message to kids that we have a governor who wants to do this.”

Alex MacLean, the governor’s Secretary of Civil and Military Affairs and erstwhile campaign manager, responded to Brock’s attack while the governor was vacationing at his summer home in Nova Scotia. Shumlin, she says, “has held this position and this belief that we should be decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana for a long time and this organization shares the same goal.”

MacLean shrugs off concern about the connection between money and policymaking. “This is the way fundraising works in modern day campaigning,” she says.

Polls show that most Vermonters want pot to be decriminalized.

Brock says popular support doesn’t justify the governor’s overt backing of reforms.

“I don’t think you should lead through polling,” Brock said. “You should lead by doing the right thing and exercising moral authority.”

Marijuana use, he said, is not a “victimless crime” as it is part of a broader array of criminal activity associated with the Mexican border.

St. Pierre said since the reports came out about NORML’s donation to Shumlin, three sitting Vermont legislators have contacted his organization for donations. Two former legislators who are now lobbyists also called — looking for work.

Four states, so far, have legalized marijuana outright, St. Pierre said. Seventeen allow the sale of medical marijuana and 14 have passed decriminalization laws, he said.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is also on the bandwagon. Vermont’s junior senator is part of what St. Pierre calls the “cannibas caucus in Congress.” Sanders has joined a coalition of bipartisan senators who introduced a bill legalizing industrial hemp last week.

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Anne Galloway

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  • The issue is really ending the cannabis prohibition. The cannabis plant has been put on par with the opium poppy just so we can keep some folks from smoking a little pot in the privacy of their own lives.

    In the process we’ve outlawed the growing of industrial hemp (cannabis) that has uses from food to diesel fuel to fiber to paneling and more. Did you know the hemp (cannabis) plant’s roots act as a natural soil plow thus allowing farmers to alternate hemp and other crops and save fuel and equipment wear and tear and time that gets spent of field preparation? Did you know the broad leaves of the hemp (cannabis) plant block out enough ground sunlight that they act as a natural herbicide and thus save fuel and and equipment wear and tear and time that would otherwise be spent spraying poisons on the fields?

    Did you know that hemp (cannabis) has the drug abuse potential of a used toilet paper roll?

    Think about the above a moment: all the benefits to society and the individual farmer – not only at no cost but at a real profit to everybody!

    Oh – did you know that hemp thrives in substandard soils – the exact type of soils found in much of Vermont?

    I won’t get into the proven medicinal uses of the marijuana (cannabis) plant right now – but rest assured that list is just as long as the hemp (cannabis) list.

    But we can’t make use of any of the above because we must keep people from smoking some pot (cannabis) in the privacy of their lives.

    End the cannabis prohibition.

  • Fran Levine

    In fact, the original prohibition had a lot to do with outlawing hemp production in order to prevent competitition with cotton and synthetics by the vastly superior hemp product.

    Our legal system is crowded with arrests and convictions for marijuana that have seriously hampered the lives of individuals and log jammed our courts. Marijuana is at least as safe as tobacco and alcohol, and far safer than new designer drugs that are not yet illegal, and is unmatched for treatment of discomfort in some conditions. It should be legalized and regulated in a reasonable manner to comply with quality and public safety.

    • Frank, your history is accurate. However I’d argue that is irrelevant to today’s drug war approach to the cannabis prohibition as this is all about keeping folks from smoking some marijuana for personal enjoyment and thus the need to outlaw industrial hemp (cannabis) and medicinal marijuana (cannabis).

      Once upon a time we couldn’t smoke a little marijuana (cannabis) in the privacy of our lives so some industries could thrive at the expense of others – today we can’t make use of hemp (cannabis) so folks won’t smoke marijuana (cannabis) in the privacy of our lives.

      Nonetheless it appears we’re on the same page despite the difference in argument.

  • Marijuana should have the same legal status as alcohol and tobacco and isn’t any more of a gateway to “hard drugs” than tobacco and alcohol, or prescription drugs for that matter.

  • Daniel `Ewald

    I have enjoyed this site and was thinking of supporting it but now that I sense that this site is anti NORMAL you will not be getting my $$ support. Very disappointing. You appear to be 21st century media but apparently are more 20th century typical mainstream media for idiots.

    • Christian Noll


      Please explain your comments. Are you talking to the previous commentors or the author, Anne Galloway?

      Thanks for posting!

  • walter carpenter

    “Marijuana should have the same legal status as alcohol and tobacco and isn’t any more of a gateway to “hard drugs” than tobacco and alcohol, or prescription drugs for that matter.”

    I agree, Jerry. All of these pot laws are nonsense. Though they are good for the prisons. It is strange that cigarettes, which kill thousands of Americans every year from lung cancer and so on, are perfectly legal while pot, which does no harm, is illegal. I have never been able to figure that one out. I agree with the governor on this issue.

    “In fact, the original prohibition had a lot to do with outlawing hemp production in order to prevent competitition with cotton and synthetics by the vastly superior hemp product.”

    Fran, if I remember right, the laws against pot were pushed hard by Dupont Corporation on the eve of WWII. They had a synthetic that they wanted contracts to make parachute cords or something and, though hemp had worked perfectly for this purpose, they got it outlawed in the dead of night in 1937 I think, to get the contracts their product. I remember my father telling me how he tasted a bit of it in the 1930’s and it was legal then. No legal harm came to him. Then it was illegal.

  • Christian Noll

    “Brock says popular support doesn’t justify the governor’s overtly supporting of reforms.”

    Sure it does.

    Mr Brock said;

    “Marijuana use, he said, is not a ‘victimless crime’ as it is part of a broader array of criminal activity associated with the Mexican boarder.”

    If we have politicians making statements like this, it would explain alot. Part of my graduate research was completed on countries which produce crops that are illegal here in the US.

    My guess is that Mr Brock doesn’t know that much about the Mexican boarder.

    If the crop becomes “decriminalized” or even “Legalized” there won’t be any “Mexican boarder” issues because the Mexicans won’t be able to make any money. As long as it is still illicite, we’re providing a huge profit margin for the Mexicans or anybody willing to produce it within our market. We’re also providing the cartels with HUGE opportunities to commit other crimes.

    Mr Brock’s statements show that he has been misinformed and it is unfortunate that we still have politicians who are willing to misinform our public just to win a vote.

    Our legislation concerning Marijuana is the number one cause of more “victims.” We need to put the money on the other end and not in fighting a “War on Drugs.”

    Law Enforcement Against Prohibition LEAP.


  • Fred Woogmaster

    My preference would be that cannabis be treated like tomatoes or lettuce. Given the historical context, however, and the absolutely ludicrous federal classification of marijuana, legalization seems to be the only rational course of action. Some Governor from some state sometime soon, with an aligned Attorney General, will find an avenue to challenge that incorrect Federal classification. Perhaps it will be Peter Shumlin. The support for reform of marijuana laws is extremely high; the support for legalization is constantly growing. It is high time for a new paradigm.