The state should not legalize marijuana or increase the number of medical marijuana dispensaries, a group representing local police chiefs said.
The Vermont Association of Chiefs of Police issued a statement in March saying it opposes expanding the availability of marijuana in Vermont.
Police believe their concerns about health risks, highway safety and employment issues related to marijuana have been ignored by the governor and lawmakers.
The statement came in response to a letter Gov. Peter Shumlin sent to association president Chief Douglas Johnston saying he was “open to further discussion” about whether it makes sense to legalize marijuana in Vermont. Johnston is Springfield’s police chief.
“This an area where I am happy to continue to let other governors lead, but I am open to the conversation,” Shumlin wrote, referring to Colorado and Washington, which have legalized marijuana.
“Like you, I empathize with those who endure chronic pain, and if symptom relief can be found by the use of marijuana as a therapeutic tool, it is important that all Vermonters with such a need have access to a dispensary,” Shumlin wrote in the March 13 letter.
The Marijuana Policy Project was the top contributor to Shumlin’s election campaign in 2011-2012, according to VTDigger campaign finance data.
The Vermont Legislature in 2004 legalized marijuana as a medical treatment. In 2011, it allowed the creation of dispensaries. There are four dispensaries in the state.
This year the Legislature is considering a bill to open two more and expand business at the existing facilities, which are in Burlington, Montpelier, Brattleboro and Brandon.
Lawmakers last year also decriminalized possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, making it instead a civil violation.
The governor’s press secretary March 14 issued a response to the police association’s statement about dispensaries and legalization.
“The governor is confident that medical marijuana dispensaries are carefully regulated by public safety, and provide relief to those with debilitating illnesses. As you know, neither Gov. Shumlin nor legislative leaders believe that Vermont should consider legalization of marijuana at this time, preferring to wait to see how that plays out in Colorado and Washington,” Susan Allen wrote.
House Speaker Shap Smith last week quashed an amendment that asked for a study of potential tax revenue to be gained by legalizing and taxing marijuana.
Smith said he also opposes the legalization of marijuana.