Marijuana legalization hits hurdles, panel vote Friday

marijuana

Beau Kilmer, a senior researcher for the RAND Corp. Photo by Cory Dawson/VTDigger

A key Senate committee is poised this week to advance legislation to legalize recreational marijuana, but don’t start growing any pot at home.

A majority of members of the Senate Judiciary Committee appear ready to vote for the legalization bill. Chairman Dick Sears, D-Bennington, said the bill will be voted on by Friday.

Two members of the committee, Sens. Jeanette White, D-Windham, and Joe Benning, R-Caledonia, co-sponsored one of the two bills in play, so their support is secure. Sen. Tim Ashe, D/P-Chittenden, says he’s “always been inclined” to vote yes. Sears says he is “50-50,” while the fifth member, Sen. Alice Nitka, D-Windsor, historically has not supported marijuana-related legislation.

However, Sears laid down one step he won’t take: allowing people to grow their own marijuana. That view caused people to attack him on social media over the weekend.

“I’ve drawn a line in the sand on homegrown,” Sears said. “You have to decide whether you’re going to have a regulated market or not. It’s got to be seed-to-sale.”

Asked whether finding a solution to his biggest concern, impaired drivers, would push him to a yes vote, Sears said: “It could.”

If approved by Judiciary, the bill would go to the Senate Finance Committee, where Ashe is the chairman. Ashe’s committee took extensive testimony last week on some of the financial questions surrounding pot legalization.

Final testimony in Judiciary will be taken Tuesday morning, from Allen Gilbert, executive director of the Vermont chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. Sears said he also hopes to have the bill redrafted Tuesday to add several provisions, including a delayed start to the program and a ban on homegrown pot.

Dick Sears

Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington. Photo by Roger Crowley/VTDigger

Ashe said Washington state, where recreational marijuana is legal, does not permit pot to be cultivated. Colorado does, but Ashe said a spokesman for the governor testified the state has had second thoughts because it creates a “gray area” for law enforcement.

“One of the things we have to be real about is when people say, ‘learn the lessons from other states,’ when those two states are saying very clearly to be careful how you approach the issue of homegrown, why Vermont would be very selective in what lessons it’s going to learn, that wouldn’t make sense,” Ashe said.

Ashe said it might make sense not to address every issue this year, including whether to approve edible marijuana products and the number of retail outlets.

“I’ve always been inclined to vote yes,” said Ashe, “as long as it’s properly constructed and realistic, and I think Sen. Sears’ approach is the path to a well-constructed bill. The realistic piece is making sure the state of Vermont, if it goes in this route, doesn’t bite off more than it could chew all at once, which might mean leaving some issues for the future.”

Meanwhile, testimony continued in Ashe’s committee on how a marijuana market would be financially regulated. Lawmakers also heard testimony on issues including public and personal health.

Much of the testimony made clear what researchers and stakeholders don’t know. On the public health side, experts were unsure if legalization would encourage use. Critics are wary legalization would send the wrong message to children.

In the finance committee, researchers said taxing the drug is more complicated than it appears. They also said retail marijuana shops will run into serious issues if they want to open a bank account.

TAXATION: MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS

“Quite frankly, nobody knows the best way to tax marijuana,” said Beau Kilmer, a senior researcher for the RAND Corp. and co-author of a major report contracted by the Legislature last year. Kilmer presented a list of 10 factors he asked lawmakers to consider during his testimony to the Senate Finance Committee.

“It could be that you set up a system now, and in five years you’ll run into unintended consequences,” he warned.

In theory, Vermont is in a situation for a legal pot market. With New York City, Boston and Montreal nearby — there is a potential consumer market for the drug that is about 40 times the size of Vermont’s local market.

If a nearby state were to legalize as well, they could siphon tax revenue by undercutting Vermont with lower pot taxes. Kilmer recommended that lawmakers make the tax code flexible so Vermont can keep prices competitive.

“You really don’t want to lock yourself in,” Kilmer said.

Massachusetts is moving a legalization bill through the Legislature this session, but Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has said he would not sign it.

If Vermont became an island of legality in the Northeast, Kilmer says tourists looking for legal pot could lead to “triple-digit millions” in tax profit.

Yet marijuana remains illegal on the federal level. States that have legalized marijuana rely on the goodwill of the Obama administration, not a law or a court decision.

The Department of Justice operates under guidelines that say the feds shouldn’t intervene if states work to keep marijuana out of the hands of minors, prevent revenue from going to criminal enterprises, and keep legal pot out of neighboring states where the substance is not allowed.

Concerns also remain about how to get rid of a black market. Kilmer estimated that a typical ounce of marijuana in Vermont costs about $300 to $350. Weed sold legally in Vermont would have to undercut that price to encourage people to buy from licensed retailers.

“Early on you might want to have a lower tax rate in order to drive out the black market,” he said. According the Colorado Department of Revenue, the size of the black market there is unknown.

Kilmer suggested that lawmakers include a sunset clause in the legislation so that lawmakers could re-evaluate the efficacy of legalizing marijuana.

Federal banks can’t take cannabis cash

Representatives from Washington and Colorado offered learned lessons during conference calls before the Senate Finance committee on Wednesday.

Rick Garza, director of the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, said there is immense interest in his state’s legalization program. Eighteen U.S. states and six countries had inquired about Colorado’s trailblazing regulations.

In both states, marijuana regulations are similar – but more strict – than rules around alcohol.

Garza said edible cannabis products have been problematic in Washington. That’s an issue Vermont won’t have to deal with, as all legalization bills in Vermont keep edibles off the table.

Garza said he also expected a better law enforcement drug test to detect stoned drivers to emerge.

“We hear that in the next month or two, our two major universities — University of Washington and Washington State University — have both been working on providing law enforcement with a swab,” Garza said.

To keep pot out of legal states, Vermont would have to estimate the required amount of cannabis to grow each year to serve consumer appetite.

Larson Silbaugh, who serves on Colorado’s Legislative Council, said an average user in Colorado smokes 6.5 ounces per year, or 350 joints per person, a huge figure that helped the state bring in $70 million in one year.

“You can’t see the jaws hitting the table here,” Sen. Ashe responded to Silbaugh. “That’s a Cheech and Chongesque quantity.”

Much of the committee’s testimony surrounded banking, and the persistent problem that federally chartered banks won’t take money from an enterprise that remains illegal in the eyes of the feds.

Garza said Washington has set up banking through state credit unions, but acknowledged banking services remain “problematic for us.”

“We do have four state-chartered credit unions that provide financial services for licensees,” Garza said. “Hopefully there’s a statewide credit union that may go online in the next few weeks.”

Susan Donegan

Department of Financial Regulation Commissioner Susan Donegan. File photo by Hilary Niles/VTDigger

“We’ve had better success than our friends in Colorado,” Garza added, referring to a failed attempt to start a credit union specifically for marijuana businesses.

Susan Donegan, the state’s commissioner of the Department of Financial Regulation, also pointed to uncertainty around federal involvement in banking.

Early in her testimony, she gave “today’s version of the answer.”

Donegan said the best option for legal marijuana businesses would be through a state-chartered credit union, pointing to the Vermont State Employees Credit Union’s dealing with medical marijuana business as a success.

“We are closely examining the business and the accounts and risk and we have not seen any sort of cause for concern,” she said about VSECU’s dealing in cannabis cash.

Donegan said federal banking agencies like the FDIC and NCUA would insure money in state marijuana accounts, Donnegan said, adding she had difficulty getting an answer until “we finally got a human being on the phone.”

While defending the precarious — but possible — legal banking path for marijuana retailers, Donegan acknowledged that the lax federal environment could shift following the 2016 election. The next president could easily impose new pot policy at the departments of Justice and the Treasury.

Christopher D’Elia, president of the Vermont Bankers Association, said his organization was not taking a position on legalization.

But on the subject of state or federally chartered Vermont banks taking in marijuana money, Delia said his members aren’t interested.

After D’Elia testified, Joe Bergeron, president of the Association of Vermont Credit Unions, offered a similarly bleak perspective.

“Today, you have the majority of credit unions, probably, that would have a similar sentiment, nationwide, to the banks,” Bergeron said, acknowledging he had not polled all his members.

He added that there remains “a smaller subset that feel they can attain some kind of comfort level,” referencing VSECU.

Nationwide, finding banking services for marijuana shops remains a major issue, said Taylor West, deputy director at the National Cannabis Industry Association.

“Every possible solution has been tried,” she said. “This is a nationwide, $3 billion, largely cash-only industry.”

Even if a credit union that was chartered in a state wanted to provide banking services to a marijuana shop, they would still need the stamp of approval from the feds to do everyday banking, West said.

“Some retailers have gone through 15 to 20 bank accounts. Individuals get their accounts shut down due to their involvement with the industry,” West said.

HEALTH AND LEGAL WEED

A wide-ranging study of the health effects of legalizing pot was presented to the Senate Health and Welfare committee on Tuesday.

“There’s a lot of things we don’t understand,” said Harry Chen, the state’s health commissioner, including how old people are when they start smoking, how many people are users, how many times a day or week they smoke and the potency of the pot.

The study synthesized 180 reports and concluded many health effects from marijuana, from cancer to sleep anxiety, aren’t well researched or determined.

Malik Burnett, a doctor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, was encouraged Vermont was considering legalization.

Harry Chen

Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Harry Chen. File photo by Erin Mansfield/VTDigger

“Vermont has a higher percentage of marijuana use compared to the U.S. for all age groups,” Burnett said. “Vermont’s current policy of prohibition to curtail marijuana use is a failure.”

Some educators don’t buy the legalization arguments. Tim Trevithick, a substance abuse counselor at CVU high school in Hinesburg said for him, it’s all about the kids.

“People continue to say our system isn’t working,” he said. “It’s not working perfectly, but something is working because the numbers are going down.”

While Vermont does have a higher rate of marijuana use compared to the rest of the country, 12- to 17-year-old Vermonters have cut back in recent years, from 14 percent in 2010/11 to 11 percent in 2013/14, according to a nationwide survey.

“We care about kids and we don’t want them to get it,” Trevithick said. “Legalization means increased access, increased access means increased ability.”

The counselor has seen serious problems from marijuana use, like acute psychosis. After one outburst, a student he mentored was hospitalized and put in five-point restraints — THC was found in his bloodstream, he said.

Margo Austin, Trevithick’s counterpart at Burlington High School, said she sees similar issues.

There is a serious problem, Austin said, about how kids view the drug. At the outset of the meeting, Austin handed out a list of the top 10 excuses she said showed complacency towards its dangers.

Austin passed her phone around the table displaying a picture of a shirt with a graphic of a marijuana leaf and text that read “Don’t Panic, it’s Organic”

“Kids will say all the time it doesn’t kill you,” she said. “And you know what, truthfully, it doesn’t. But neither does smoking cigarettes. What kills people from cigarettes? Secondary causes.”

Correction story., Jan. 26, 11:06 a.m.: A photo caption has been corrected. Beau Kilmer, a senior researcher for the RAND Corp. and co-author of a major report contracted by the Legislature last year, was misidentified in the caption in the original version of this story.

 

Mark Johnson

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  • Mary Daly

    This is the most ridiculous idea the legislature has ever had. Instead of spending time on real economic development that everyone agrees we need, they are wasting time on marijuana and turnips. How can we even begin to expect the administration to get this program right when they can’t even sell health insurance? Legislators, plant your feet firmly on the ground and get to work on meaningful legislation, not pie in the sky junk.

    • Tom Sullivan

      Hey Mary,

      “legal pot could lead to “triple-digit millions” in tax profit”

      The focus of Tim Ashe “the progressive” is on tax revenue, while ignoring all of the negatives.

      Although, this legislation could be all for not, as the next president could very easily pull the plug on legalization by enforcing federal law.

      • Paul O’Day

        Can you please explain how the next president will be able to enforce federal law after 5-10+ states legalize adult use in November and 1-3 states legalize medical use in November?

      • Brian Kelly

        The “War on Marijuana” has been a complete and utter failure. It is the largest component of the broader yet equally unsuccessful “War on Drugs” that has cost our country over a trillion dollars.

        Instead of The United States wasting Billions upon Billions more of our tax dollars fighting a never ending “War on Marijuana”, lets generate Billions of dollars, and improve the deficit instead. It’s a no brainer.

        The Prohibition of Marijuana has also ruined the lives of many of our loved ones. In numbers greater than any other nation, our loved ones are being sent to jail and are being given permanent criminal records which ruin their chances of employment for the rest of their lives, and for what reason?

        Marijuana is much safer to consume than alcohol. Yet do we lock people up for choosing to drink?

        Even The President of the United States has used marijuana. Has it hurt his chances at succeeding in life? If he had gotten caught by the police during his college years, he may have very well still been in prison today! Beyond that, he would then be fortunate to even be able to find a minimum wage job that would consider hiring him with a permanent criminal record. Let’s end this hypocrisy now!

        The government should never attempt to legislate morality by creating victim-less marijuana “crimes” because it simply does not work and costs the taxpayers a fortune.

        Marijuana Legalization Nationwide is an inevitable reality that’s approaching much sooner than prohibitionists think and there is nothing they can do to stop it!

        Legalize Nationwide! Support Each and Every Marijuana Legalization Initiative!

        • You hit ever pot lobby talking point but they are only talking points and not facts or evidence based in science. Marijuana is not safer than alcohol in many cases it is far worse – look at the pregnancy data, youth suicide rates and psychosis seen daily in hospital emergency rooms around the country. What war on drugs – ? We could argue the points but that is a waste of time as the pot lobby is not interested in facts but propaganda and sound bites. If you look to the historical record and the world wide variation in rates of use there is nothing inevitable about ongoing marijuana use unless we entrench a commercial industry – the likes of Big Tobacco. Demand will dampen when the adults of America wake up to realize the damage this drug is causing society and their children and they are already getting organized and fighting back – Parents Opposed to Pot case in point. The 90+% of non-users – the silent majority will wake up and they will elect people into office who will take drug use seriously and say – no to drugs – not just placid harm reductionist babble but earnest anti-drug messaging that dampens demand and they will come after the predator suppliers and they will win – that is the war on drugs that remains to be fought.

      • Neil Johnson

        Being the first in the North East is wrong in so many ways. We’ve got so many problems that are real and pressing. We’ll be the drug center for the east coast. What if the next president enforces federal laws? Experiment over, jail time. This all makes no sense. But it’s a sexy law so many would love to pass, instead of sticking to business and spending money wisely.

      • Neil Johnson

        I predict they will pass a bill. The system of lobbyists, good ole boy net work is very strong in Vermont. They will set up their monopoly and call it a co-operative. The lure of money and sexy legislation will be way to strong for most of our representatives.

        There will be no middle ground solution. Vermont will be come the drug dealing mecca of the East Coast….they can not wait, because they know a sane person might come in next term.

        And we still won’t have enough money, just a prediction. They never have enough money.

        If it was such a great idea, it would be next year too. But our citizens will lose out to the call of sexy legislation, big money and lobbyist every time. There are 425 lobbyists to our 30 senators……we lose again.

    • Bob Orleck

      Please don’t do this! If you care about your children, or the mentally ill or those suffering already with mental illness, don’t do this. If you care about highway safety, don’t do this. Legislators, our representatives, stand up and be a heroz and stand against this. This is dirty money you are after and there will be casualties. Just look at the conversation about who they are expecting to serve. New York, Boston and Montreal people who will come here for their drugs. Imagine the quality of folks who will be coming from those places and the costs it will bring to our state and people. I am especially disappointed with Dick Sears and Joe Benning. Surely they know this is wrong and is bad for Vermont. I am a pharmacist and I know this is bad for our people. I just beg you not to be drawn by this siren call of money, money, money. Think long term. This is really dirty money and our legislators should not rely on it just because they cannot live within a reasonable budget. What would you say if I could not live within my means so I decided to supplement it with selling drugs? What’s the difference here? Please don’t do this!

      • Paul O’Day

        I’m a little confused. If a person cares about their kids and about the mentally ill they should prefer a policy of arresting adults who are not mentally ill? That is what you mean?

        Can you please explain why it is necessary to arrest sane adults due to ones concern for children and the mentally ill?

        • Bob Orleck

          Thanks for giving me the chance to clarify what I meant.

          Marijuana use increases the chance of auto accident injuries and fatalities (documented). Marijuana use worsens mental health psychosis/psychotic behavior (documented). Marijuana use will increase in children with increased availability and they are more susceptible to negative effects.

          Here is the link to the 84 page health report that should lead responsible legislators like Senator Benning and Sears and others to reject legalization. http://healthvermont.gov/pubs/healthassessments/documents/HIA_marijuana_regulation_in_vermont_201601.pdf

          As a pharmacist it is hard to understand how they can dismiss what they read here. I know this is a lot to read so I have summarized some of it here as example. I would suggest you go to page 4 for a chart of conditions and the effect on those conditions when marijuana is used.

          There is strong evidence that Mental Health Psychosis/Psychotic symptoms get worse. That depression worsens. That schizophrenia worsens. There is strong evidence that motor vehicle injuries and death worsens. Child poisoning worsens. Long term health effects like air flow worsen. Stroke/heart attack possibilities worsen. Chronic bronchitis worsens. Negative effects on reproductive health is strong. Future dependence by youth worsens. Academic performance worsens.

          There are populations that are more likely to use marijuana. Children and high school adults will have more access and they are at greater risks of negative health outcomes.

          • Research shows increased odds of crashing, crash culpability, and fatality with increasing blood THC levels. Using marijuana and alcohol together increases crash risk. Education campaigns alone will not deter drivers from using and driving. Vermont Department of Health – January 2016
          • Early and persistent use of marijuana can lead to the development of anxiety disorders later in life. It may lead to development of depressive disorders. Among individuals at risk for the development of some psychotic disorders, marijuana use may increase the risk or mean that onset of those disorders begins earlier in life. Marijuana use may impact the physical structure of the brain.

          • Early and continuous use of marijuana significantly increases risk of not completing high school, not enrolling or completing college, low educational achievement, lower income, unemployment and welfare dependence as an adult, premature work force retirement due to disability, and reduction in IQ in middle adulthood.

          • If marijuana use increases, the number of people with a marijuana use disorder will also increase. If use increases among youth, individuals with a substance use disorder for more than one substance will also increase.

          • Marijuana use among high school and college students negatively impacts academic outcomes. The association has a dose-response relationship, which means the more a student uses, the worse the outcomes. The research on the relationship between marijuana use and academic outcomes is almost sufficient to show a cause-and-effect link between the two. Youth in more vulnerable situations (e.g. already experiencing behavior or mental health problems) are more likely to experience a negative academic outcome due to marijuana use.

          So, this is what I meant about caring for children and others and about quality of life. This is so wrong to do just because some people want to get high and others like our cash strapped state wants more revenue. It is the wrong thing to do. I plead with our legislators again to not do this!

          I see by the positive and negative votes that the users are working hard to try to influence the public attitude but the facts stand in their way but that is not important if you don’t care about people. If you care you will take seriously the harm caused to children, not only personally but when they are a passenger in an auto that is in an accident due to an impaired driver. The effects on the mentally ill and the result of that worsened condition will hurt and kill innocent people.

          The primary role of government is to protect the people. It is not to raise a lot of revenue or to appeal to those who want to engage in the vices. It is to protect me, you and our children in our daily lives. They are failing us if they carry through with what they are considering. Please don’t do that!

          • Brian Kelly

            There is absolutely no doubt now that the majority of Americans want to completely legalize marijuana nationwide. Our numbers grow on a daily basis.

            The prohibitionist view on marijuana is the viewpoint of a minority of Americans.. It is based upon decades of lies and propaganda put forth largely by The National Institute On Drug Abuse, commonly referred to as NIDA .

            “While U.S. officials defend their monopoly, critics say the government is hogging all the pot and giving it mainly to researchers who want to find harms linked to the drug.

            U.S. officials say the federal government must be the sole supplier of legal marijuana in order to comply with a 1961 international drug-control treaty. But they admit they’ve done relatively little to fund pot research projects looking for marijuana’s benefits, following their mandate to focus on abuse and addiction.

            “We’ve been studying marijuana since our inception. Of course, the large majority of that research has been on the deleterious effects, the harmful effects, on cognition, behavior and so forth,” said Steven Gust, special assistant to the director at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which was created in 1974.”

            Each and every tired old lie NIDA has propagated has been thoroughly proven false by both science and society.

            Their tired old rhetoric no longer holds any validity. The majority of Americans have seen through the sham of marijuana prohibition in this day and age. The number of prohibitionists left shrinks on a daily basis.

            With their credibility shattered, and their not so hidden agendas visible to a much wiser public, what’s left for The National Institute On Drug Abuse to do?

            Maybe, just come to terms with the fact that Marijuana Legalization Nationwide is an inevitable reality that’s approaching much sooner than prohibitionists think, and there is nothing they can do to stop it!

            Legalize Nationwide!…and Support All Marijuana Legalization Efforts!

      • Michael Ellis

        More prohibitionist fear-mongering and Reefer Madness.

      • Brian Kelly

        If I were you and worried so much about “saving all of us” adults from ourselves, under the guise of protecting “The Children”, well then, I’d begin with the deadliest drug, which causes more broken homes, domestic violence, and traffic fatalities than all other drugs, combined, which is alcohol.

        Yet alcohol remains perfectly legal, widely accepted, endlessly advertised, even glorified as an All American pastime.

        Why doesn’t the much more prevalent, more widely abused, use of alcohol concern you much more than marijuana which is a relatively benign drug when compared to all other ones?

        Protesting the legality of booze should be your number one priority if you are truly so concerned about “saving us all” from ourselves.

        Regarding “The Children”,

        Let’s not use “The Children” as an excuse to prohibit and criminalize adult use of a natural plant far less dangerous than perfectly legal alcohol because nobody condones child use, and this is about allowing adults only to choose marijuana.

        It’s our responsibility as parents by to educate our children on drug use. It’s not the government’s job to force Draconian Marijuana Laws upon every adult citizen under the guise of protecting “The Children”.

        What message are we sending our children when it is easier for them to obtain marijuana now with it being illegal than it is for them to buy alcohol?

        It doesn’t take the intellect of a genius to understand that stores card kids for I.D. Thugs and gang members do not. They also push the real hard drugs on children. Stores do not.

        Marijuana legalization will make it harder for children to obtain it.

        What message does it send our children when the President of The United States himself alongside a long list of successful people openly admit regular pot use at one time or another in their lives?

        While we tell our kids how it will ruin their futures, and then ensure so, by allowing our government to to jail our children and give them permanent criminal records when they get caught with a little Marijuana. Especially, if they are the wrong skin color or from the “wrong neighborhood”. Which in turn, ruins their chances of employment for life.

        The Prohibition of Marijuana is the wrong message to send our children while we glorify, advertise and promote the much more dangerous use of alcohol like it’s an all American pastime.

        The worst thing about marijuana and our children is what happens to them when they get caught up in the criminal justice system due to it’s prohibition.

        Protect “The Children” and Our Neighborhoods Through The Legalization and Regulation of Marijuana Nationwide!

        • Paul Richards

          “What message does it send our children when the President of The United States himself alongside a long list of successful people openly admit regular pot use at one time or another in their lives?”
          You almost had me convinced until you said that. The president is not a good example for your cause.

          • Mike Ferzoco

            Paul Richards-Being President is not successful? Check your partisanship at the door.

      • michael olcott

        Rather ironic that one who makes their living off the pharmaceutical industry is decrying the evils of dirty money. we DO care about the children, care enough to regulate an industry that right now not only doesn’t card its users but offers them harder drugs to boost their own income.Mental illness? well i would much rather see someone use a natural substance that has few detrimental side effects than be on drugs that have a 10 second disclaimer at the end of the commercial. Some of the poison that YOU peddle everyday has been at the heart of almost every mass shooting in the last 20 years. The people that we would be attracting here with legalization are counted among some of the most peaceful and creative members of humanity. no we would rather have the heartless street dealers; they make big pharma look like saviors and saints by comparison.

      • Kevin Hunt

        “I am a pharmacist and I know”. Sounds like you are afraid that legalization will cut into your profits. You sell the most dangerous and addictive drugs like Oxycontin and you are worried about pot? What a farce!

        • Neil Johnson

          They are prescribed by doctors, he can’t just give them out. Way to attack the person when you argument won’t stand on it’s own feet.

          Yes we have a serious prescription drug problem. Easily solved if the licensing board for doctors did their jobs.

    • Brian Kelly

      Fear of Marijuana Legalization Nationwide is unfounded. Not based on any science or fact whatsoever. So please prohibitionists, we beg you to give your scare tactics, “Conspiracy Theories” and “Doomsday Scenarios” over the inevitable Legalization of Marijuana Nationwide a rest. Nobody is buying them anymore these days. Okay?

      Furthermore, if all prohibitionists get when they look into that nice, big and shiny, crystal ball of theirs, while wondering about the future of marijuana legalization, is horror, doom, and despair, well then I suggest they return that thing as quickly as possible and reclaim the money they shelled out for it, since it’s obviously defective.

      The prohibition of marijuana has not decreased the supply nor the demand for marijuana at all. Not one single iota, and it never will. Just a huge and complete waste of our tax dollars to continue criminalizing citizens for choosing a natural, non-toxic, relatively benign plant proven to be much safer than alcohol.

      If prohibitionists are going to take it upon themselves to worry about “saving us all” from ourselves, then they need to start with the drug that causes more death and destruction than every other drug in the world COMBINED, which is alcohol!

      Why do prohibitionists feel the continued need to vilify and demonize marijuana when they could more wisely focus their efforts on a real, proven killer, alcohol, which again causes more destruction, violence, and death than all other drugs, COMBINED?

      Prohibitionists really should get their priorities straight and/or practice a little live and let live. They’ll live longer, happier, and healthier, with a lot less stress if they refrain from being bent on trying to control others through Draconian Marijuana Laws.

      • Neil Johnson

        Too bad you wouldn’t consider a middle ground, rather than resorting to name calling and propaganda. Drugs are a problem not a solution to life. Too bad so many are hell bent on creating monopolies vs. taking time to address the real problems.

        Pretty good sensationalism, got to hand it to you.

  • Howard Ires
  • Jason Wells

    So incredibly frustrating! As I have pointed out before I think this is destined to fail. If only a simple bill allowing folks to grow their own and removing any penalties for possession of a few ounces or less had been introduced I think it could have passed. No in your face pot stores, no new cops/enforcement scheme, no tons of out of staters coming in. We could have passed that and given the freedom for thousands of Vermonters to do what they already do without fear of arrest and persecution for a plant. This could have been done THIS YEAR while slowly working to a regulated sale type situation in the future. Now if Vermonter’s had ballot access this would have been passed years ago.

    • Mark Keefe

      Jason, this is too logical of a next step. It doesn’t; add tax revenue, create greater demand, or make it really cool for our kids. It would only; save enforcement money, significantly reduce the black market, and allow some folks to keep more of their own money in their pocket. The Golden Dome will never go for it 🙂

      • Jason Wells

        Mark, Your spot on with the reasons why they wouldn’t go for it. Heck it is even spelled out in the article!

        “In theory, Vermont is in a situation for a legal pot market. With New York City, Boston and Montreal nearby — there is a potential consumer market for the drug that is about 40 times the size of Vermont’s local market.”

        • Patricia Smith

          This is about a few monied interests controlling and limiting production and keeping the profits. Seed-to-sale regulation…good god that sounds like an awful lot of paperwork for a simple plant. Why not regulate it like we do spirits, it’s far less dangerous than alcohol. Vermont farmers should be allowed to sell this next to their kale–though they might want to use a different scale 🙂

  • Michael Badamo

    It’s time to start some seeds, folks. I invite Senator Sears to arrest me.

    • Neil Johnson

      It’s about money…..they’ll take all you own that’s for sure. Don’t pay your taxes and see what happens…..it’ll be the same here.

  • samuel shultis

    DOPES
    There is no rule of law …. marijuana remains illegal on the federal level. ‘States that have legalized marijuana rely on the goodwill of the Obama administration, not a law or a court decision’.
    So … when a new DOJ starts up in a few months along with a new AG and they begin to enforce the law, states who blatantly break the law may lose out on healthcare or highway funding.
    Adhere to the federal laws – don’t smoke it, grow it or sell it. It leads to worse things, and comparing the dope smoked in the 60’s & 70’s to today’s ‘organic’ or chemically engineered versions is like placing a Model T beside a Maybach Exelero.

    • Paul O’Day

      How is a new DOJ going to “enforce the law” after 5-10+ states legalize in November if they can’t do it now?

    • Brian Kelly

      Marijuana is not “dope”. By calling it that, you only make it that much easier for everyone to see your ignorance. Along with the anger and resentment you hold towards this natural plant and it’s consumers.

      If anything, you can say that booze is the real “dope” because it makes people do the dumbest things, often become violent, and then blackout and not remember all the havoc caused by the booze, like true “dopes”

      Go ask your local street drug dealer for some “dope”.

      You’re not going to get marijuana, guaranteed!

      The “Gateway Myth” has been proven false over and over again. Correlation doesn’t equal causation.

      If you really want to protect families from a drug proven to destroy lives and families, then you should be up in arms, protesting the legality of booze. Alcohol is the drug that causes the most traffic fatalities and domestic violence by a huge landslide.
      More so than all other drugs, combined.

      Why doesn’t that concern you even more?

      “Marijuana Is Gateway Drug” Theory Debunked, Again
      http://www.opposingviews.com/i/marijuana-is-gateway-drug-theory-debunked-again

      Marijuana a “Gateway” Drug? Scientists Call Theory Half-Baked
      http://www.cbsnews.com/news/marijuana-a-gateway-drug-scientists-call-theory-half-baked/

      Marijuana as a Gateway Drug: The Myth That Will Not Die
      http://healthland.time.com/2010/10/29/marijuna-as-a-gateway-drug-the-myth-that-will-not-die/#ixzz2s5nDwiDS

      Seven Studies That Debunk the Gateway Myth
      http://inorml.com/blog/2012/11/25/seven-studies-that-debunk-the-gateway-myth/

      In the prohibitionist’s world, anybody who consumes the slightest amount of marijuana responsibly in the privacy of their own homes are “stoners” and “dopers” that need to be incarcerated in order to to protect society.

      In their world, any marijuana use equates to marijuana abuse, and it is their God given duty to worry about “saving us all” from the “evils” of marijuana use.

      Who are they to tell us we can’t choose marijuana, the safer choice instead of alcohol for relaxation, after a long, hard day, in the privacy of our own homes?

      People who consume marijuana are smart, honest, hard working, educated, and successful people too, who “follow the law” also.(except for their marijuana consumption under it’s current prohibition of course) .

      Not the stereotypical live at home losers prohibitionists make them out to be. They are doctors, lawyers, professors, movie stars, and politicians too.

      Several Presidents of The United States themselves, along with Justin Trudeau, Bill Gates, and Carl Sagan have all confessed to their marijuana use. As have a long and extensive list of successful people throughout history at one point or other in their lives.

      Although that doesn’t mean a dam thing to people who will make comments like “dopers” and “stoners” about anybody who uses the slightest amount of Marijuana although it is way safer than alcohol.

      To these people any use equals abuse, and that is really ignorant and full of hypocrisy. While our society promotes, advertises, and even glorifies alcohol consumption like it’s an All American pastime.

      There is nothing worse about relaxing with a little marijuana after a long hard day than having a drink or two of alcohol.

      So come off those high horses of yours. Who are you to dictate to the rest of society that we can’t enjoy Marijuana, the safer choice over alcohol, in the privacy of our own homes?

      We’ve worked real hard our whole lives to provide for our loved ones. We don’t appreciate prohibitionists trying to impose their will and morals upon us all.

      Has a marijuana consumer ever forced you to use it? Probably not. So nobody has the right to force anybody not to either.

      Don’t try to impose your morality and “clean living” upon everybody else with Draconian Marijuana Laws, and we won’t think you’re such prohibitionist hypocrites.

      Legalize Nationwide! Support Each and Every Marijuana Legalization Initiative!

      • bruce wilkie

        Opium poppies are also a natural plant. Just sayin’.

        • Brian Kelly

          Bruce Wilkie,

          Let’s not intentionally try to alarm and worry the public about legalizing “all drugs” right now.

          That concept is often used as a scare-tactic by prohibitionists in an attempt to frighten the public away from marijuana legalization by clumping marijuana legalization in with the legalization of other drugs which are far more scary and dangerous than relatively benign,often healing marijuana.

          Marijuana is just about the safest drug out there. Legal or not, and much less dangerous than perfectly legal, widely accepted, endlessly advertised, often glorified alcohol consumption.

          Which makes marijuana legalization unique, and certainly a much different, and far more urgent matter than the legalization of “all drugs” right now.

          Let’s not lose focus on the real issue at hand here. Marijuana, the only currently illegal recreational drug that is much safer than perfectly legal alcohol.

          Legalize Marijuana Nationwide!

    • Kevin Hunt

      DRUG WAR NAZIS
      There is no rule of law ….The Federal Government breaks the law by laundering money for the Mexican Cartels and selling them guns. Trump, Cruz, and Hillary have all said that they will not interfere with legalization. The ‘gateway’ theory and your ‘potency’ argument are a joke. Mind your own business.

      • bruce wilkie

        Comparing the bogus drug war to Nazi tactics is ludicrous.
        When the DEA starts rounding up millions and herding them into gas chambers and incinerators, then you can make the comparison. Until then mind your rhetoric.
        Don’t insult the few living survivors of the holocaust with your ridiculous assertions.

  • Rick Veitch

    Any law that prohibits home grown will fail. The many tens of thousands of Vermonters who have been growing their own cannabis under threat of arrest and seizure will continue to do so. The only way to get rid of the black market is to bring all the talent and passion of Vermont home growers into the light.

  • Brian Kelly

    Fear of Marijuana Legalization Nationwide is unfounded. Not based on any science or fact whatsoever. So please prohibitionists, we beg you to give your scare tactics, “Conspiracy Theories” and “Doomsday Scenarios” over the inevitable Legalization of Marijuana Nationwide a rest. Nobody is buying them anymore these days. Okay?

    There is absolutely no doubt now that the majority of Americans want to completely legalize marijuana nationwide. Our numbers grow on a daily basis.

    The prohibitionist view on marijuana is the viewpoint of a minority and rapidly shrinking percentage of Americans. It is based upon decades of lies and propaganda.

    Each and every tired old lie they have propagated has been thoroughly proven false by both science and society.

    Their tired old rhetoric no longer holds any validity. The vast majority of Americans have seen through the sham of marijuana prohibition in this day and age. The number of prohibitionists left shrinks on a daily basis.

    With their credibility shattered, and their not so hidden agendas visible to a much wiser public, what’s left for a marijuana prohibitionist to do?

    Maybe, just come to terms with the fact that Marijuana Legalization Nationwide is an inevitable reality that’s approaching much sooner than prohibitionists think, and there is nothing they can do to stop it!

    Legalize Nationwide!…and Support All Marijuana Legalization Efforts!

    • Jason Wells

      Perhaps they have seen these ads a few times to many!

  • Steve Beck

    Is not this “the Vermont way?” I am a flatlander by birth. SO please tell me what that means. I have heard numerous “leaders” use that expression. And I use the term “leader” lightly.

  • Tom Kauffmann

    Due to the federal drug classification of marijuana, scant research has been done on the long-term effects of marijuana (Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act.) This means (to me, at least,) that the effects of legalizing this substance are unknown as to whether there may be unintended consequences to a person’s physical and mental health.

    Additionally, as most states found out after climbing onto the the “casino” tax revenue windfall bandwagon, only the first few states aboard received anywhere near the tax revenue the legislators forecast. And then for only a few short years until everyone started legalizing gambling. I believe this will happen with marijuana, too.

    So I would urge our legislators to think long and hard before they follow the rest of the lemmings over the cliff of marijuana legalization and try to envision what marijuana legalization will mean to Vermont with little to no tax revenue. This image may be different from the rosy one they are looking at now.

    • Brian Kelly

      Not studied long enough, you claim? Do they know Marijuana is perhaps the most studied therapeutic substance on Earth? It’s true:

      “Despite the US government’s nearly century-long prohibition of the plant, cannabis is nonetheless one of the most investigated therapeutically active substances in history. To date, there are over 20,000 published studies or reviews in the scientific literature referencing the cannabis plant and its cannabinoids, nearly half of which were published within the last five years according to a keyword search on PubMed Central, the US government repository for peer-reviewed scientific research. Over 1,450 peer-reviewed papers were published in 2013 alone. (By contrast, a keyword search of “hydrocodone,” a commonly prescribed painkiller, yields just over 600 total references in the entire body of available scientific literature.)”

      http://www.alternet.org/drugs/marijuana-one-most-scrupulously-researched-drugs-known-humanity-media-likes-pretend-pots

      Fear of Marijuana Legalization Nationwide is unfounded. Not based on any science or fact whatsoever. So please prohibitionists, we beg you to give your scare tactics, “Conspiracy Theories” and “Doomsday Scenarios” over the inevitable Legalization of Marijuana Nationwide a rest. Nobody is buying them anymore these days. Okay?

      Furthermore, if all prohibitionists get when they look into that nice, big and shiny, crystal ball of theirs, while wondering about the future of marijuana legalization, is horror, doom, and despair, well then I suggest they return that thing as quickly as possible and reclaim the money they shelled out for it, since it’s obviously defective.

      If I were you and worried so much about “saving all of us” adults from ourselves, well then, I’d begin with the deadliest drug. Which causes more broken homes, domestic violence, and traffic fatalities than all other drugs, combined. That most dangerous and deadly drug is alcohol.

      Yet alcohol remains perfectly legal, widely accepted, endlessly advertised, even glorified as an All American pastime.

      Why doesn’t the much more prevalent, more widely abused, use of alcohol concern you much more than marijuana which is a relatively benign drug when compared to all other ones?

      Protesting the legality of booze should be your number one priority if you are truly so concerned about “saving us all” from ourselves.

      Let’s Open Our Eyes, End The Lies, and Legalize Nationwide!

      • Tom Kauffmann

        Thank you for your insights, though based on your replies to every post which questions the legalization of marijuana in this discussion, I would respectfully suggest you may be the one who should stop worrying. May I suggest a nice glass of wine, or two?

        • Fred Woogmaster

          Alcohol is THE most destructive ‘drug’ in our communities; bar none!
          All things are relative; marijuana is comparatively benign!

    • Michael Badamo

      Sure, study. Maybe you should look into how much “study” has been done. Like, about 5,000 years worth.

    • Don Soucy

      You start off pretty good, when you state that “Due to the federal drug classification of marijuana, scant research has been done on the long-term effects of marijuana”, then instead of suggesting a proper solution to this lack of research, you go on to say the answer to our problem (lack of research) is NOT provide an atmosphere conducive to broad, science based research BUT suggests we desperately need MORE OF THE SAME. Ostrich politics.

  • Why prohibit private cultivation of pot for personal us when one can have homemade beer and wine? Senators Sears and Nitka should face the reality that it’s illogical and unrealistic to prevent homegrown marijuana, especially if it can be legally sold in stores. What a hypocritical double standard they are creating! And the pundits will wonder why people lose respect for our politicians.

    • Tom burke

      Great points Jerry, they can not figure how to tax homegrown. Thus Senator Sears claims in Colorado, homegrown causes problems for law enforcement. Every town could have a farmer’s market.

  • Angela Bennett

    Politicians with major “control issues.” Wooow Sears.

  • Pete Novick

    Well, if you make a rule, you gotta enforce it. Prohibiting homegrown marijuana while at the same time legalizing sale and consumption can’t be made to work.

    Growing marijuana ain’t like producing alcohol: a $100 investment in equipment, some good seed stock, proper soil, light and heat and 75-90 days later, 6′ plants.

    Good luck with that one Vermont.

    Cheers

  • Maryann St. John
  • Deborah Billado

    We have heard our state and local police, educators, taxpayers (parents, grandparents and more), medical professionals and others ask that Vermont NOT legalize dope. Every one know it’s all about the money that our legislators want and need to continue the spending spree they have been on for years.
    They are willing to forsake our youth and their health and welfare for dirty money. Is there no end to the reckless thinking of those elected people in Montpelier. Please consider voting out every person who supports this foolishness.

    • michael olcott

      And we have ALSO heard members of every group you mention voice their support for legalization. sadly it is looking like it IS about the money. Prohibition is the failure that has forsaken and failed our youth,they have seen through the lies about Cannabis and rightly so question everything else leaving them vulnerable to the lies of many people and agenda’s. a better choice is to vote out the crony sycophants who have bungled this and made a pretty simple thing into a huge mess that is taking up too much time when we have far more pressing issues just to get their cut of the money and power.

  • Lisa Ravalese

    Health and safety issues aside, I just don’t see this being a big revenue generator. Most people who smoke pot grow their own or buy from friends who do. Are these people really going to pay more to purchase it at a licensed store (I imagine they will be like state liquor stores) just to comply with the law?

    I doubt it. Most will continue to grown their own and take their chances. I don’t see how they could get more than a slap on the wrist for using a legalized substance that wasn’t purchased through a state-approved source.

  • David Dempsey

    Many comments here say that nationwide people are in favor of legalizing MJ. If this is true, in my opinion, the next step in the process would be to legalize MJ at the federal level by lobbying Congress and electing reps and senators who support legalization. That would eliminate the banking problem, issues related to federal law trumping state law and many other related problems. This would alleviate the problem of unintended consequences in the future because federal guidelines would dictate the implementation of legalization.

    • Brian Kelly

      David Dempsey,

      We will continue to legalize state by state. City by city.

      Because only when enough states have legalized marijuana (perhaps half) will the federal government be left with no other choice but to then finally obey the will of the vast majority of the people and legalize marijuana nationwide.

      Legalize Nationwide! By supporting each state’s individual marijuana legalization…

      • DAN DUNBAR

        Anyone that wants marijuana right now can purchase marijuana in Vt thru the black market. It’s not like we’re creating a new drug or market. We are just taking it out of the control of the drug cartel and regulating it. We don’t see people jumping up and down saying that the Vt beer craft business here is a failure and should be outlawed do we? It’s time folks !!

  • The gross bulk of the market for marijuana is an underage market who do not need the stimulus of a more normalized and commercially available marijuana product. We need to stop the madness of legalization of a drug that is scientifically proven to not be safe for human consumption, an addictive substance, a smoked product, and a product that has been cited as a signficant factor in the death of young people – Haven Dubois case in point. Marijuana products of 2016 are potent detructive products that are destroying a generation of young minds and bodies – robbing children of reaching their full potential – in terms of happiness, health and the pursuit of a decent living wage through obtaining an education. The parents of America need to wake up and take action and stop the entrenchment of the commercial pot industry – we did it before in the 90’s and we can do it again – no adult population can consider collecting tax revenues off the backs of minors. Support the United Nations and the 190 partner nations who voted and ratified The Rights of the Child Treaty which specfies no to legalization – look at Sweden with enforced prohibition and the lowest rates of use in the world – do the right think and reject the advance of pot. http://www.learnaboutsam.ca

    • Anthony Sep

      Your claims are more-of-the-same scare tactics, and are very out-dated. I appreciate that you have been scared away from a miraculous substance by ridiculous laws and the ensuing fear-mongering. And I also appreciate that you have at least linked to “information” that backs up your argument, which is more than I can say for most of the prohibitionists commenting here.

      The problem is, you link to an anti-marijuana site that spews more misinformation and half-truths, which is unhelpful to all. It would be like me disagreeing with you and, to support my position, linking to an outright marijuana propaganda site like High Times.

      If you truly want to learn of the pros and cons of marijuana, or any subject for that matter, I would suggest that the best place to start would be to consult disinterested, science-based sources who’s function is shedding light on said subject, not obfuscating it.

      While I respect your concerns, I suspect that at this point your agenda is far more important to you than it is to actually follow the facts and the science, regardless of where that will lead you. Nonetheless, might I suggest the book “Understanding Marijuana-a new look at the scientific evidence”, by Mitch Earleywine. This is a source about as close to unbiased as I’ve found, though it may have “unintended consequences” on your hard-worn convictions about this plant.

  • Jayson cas

    Any bill that does not include home grows is pointless unless taxation, not damaging the black market is the primary goal. Shame on Sears!

  • Richard Lewis

    *** What is the justification for a ban on personal cultivation? *** If we create an exclusive corporate cartel, that will inflate the retail price of domestic produce, and a lot of cash will continue to leave the local economy due to competition from foreign suppliers. The primary goal should be to drive the foreign cartels out of business – not harass the citizens whose rights we are supposed to protect.

    It’s time to start transitioning from force to incentives: We need to abandon this delusion that progress can be made by attempting to micro-manage everyone and everything. The state can regulate commerce but it cannot dictate the choices that individuals make in defiance of bad policies. That is precisely why prohibition failed in the first place! I also doubt that this double standard could withstand a constitutional challenge: The founders of this nation grew cannabis for both industrial and medicinal purposes. They would be appalled by the assertion that corporations have special rights which the rest of us don’t… and we should be equally horrified by these titles of nobility.

    It is also important to consider that hundreds of cannabis strains are now being bred to assist in the treatment of specific diseases, such as arthritis, migraines, neuromuscular pain, and PTSD. This actually does make a difference, and it is completely unrealistic to expect that people with a medical preference will be always able to find what they need in every rural corner of the state — especially when the government intends to issue commercial licenses at a snail’s pace, in a very discriminatory fashion. That kind of policy lends itself to corruption and political favoritism. Most people will not bother to grow their own anyway… but why should anyone be deprived of their right to cultivate and preserve the strain which best meets their needs?

    Some of the greatest progress in the field of medical research is being made by talented individuals who do not have a large budget. And maybe that threatens the monied interests which always want to monopolize every market. Perhaps this ban on personal cultivation is just an attempt to extract more cash from the sick, to make cannabis less competitive with patented pharmaceuticals. And maybe it is a desperate attempt to maximize tax revenue, without regard for civil rights. But none of those things are productive. This despicable ban on personal cultivation should be abolished — and not just for the sake of compassionate care:

    Over and over, we have seen individual liberties abridged whenever our rights conflict with schemes to generate profits. And the largest industry in the state is government itself. But excessive attempts to maximize tax receipts will often have the opposite effect. Legislators should bear in mind that you don’t even need to tax cannabis directly to increase tax revenue: the proper repeal of prohibition alone will keep so much money from leaving the state that tax revenue from all other sources will increase across the board as a natural effect of this massive “stimulus package.”

    In any case, we are NEVER going to succeed at converting every last seed and puff into a taxable sale. If that is the objective which the new law implies, it will only beget another dysfunctional regime that continues to waste the taxpayers money on perpetual witch hunts, instead of improving public services and infrastructure. This is more like Prohibition 2.0: It appears that the old guard is trying to protect the old rackets by creating a new user interface backed by the same flawed logic that created the problems which we are trying to solve.

  • David Carter

    I have often heard one of the arguments against legalizing pot is that it is a “gateway” drug – that is, it would lead users to try “harder” drugs, such as heroin. I recently listened to an interview with Janet Mills, Atty General of Maine on Sirius Progress. She cited the fact that 80% of people arrested in the state for heroin began their use of opiates by using legally prescribed pain killers such as oxycontin. She also noted that the average age of those arrested was 43 yr of age; the exact age of the average person in Maine, which exceeds only Vermont as the oldest state in the nation.
    And speaking of the 80% factor, it was also noted that while comprising about 5% of the world’s population, the US prescribes and consumes about 80% of the world’s narcotics. The rampant use of illegal narcotics is a primary cause of property crimes throughout the nation. Also noted was the fact that every person who uses medicinal marijuana is able to cease using on average five prescription meds. Do we see a theme here? Hint: Big Pharma, one of the most heavily lobbied and profitable business sectors, is also one of the most evil and deceptive ones. So where’s the outrage against doctors and pharmaceutical companies who are profiting from creating this malaise in America? Certainly not from Congressmen whose campaigns are benefiting quite handsomely from companies whose patents can be rendered useless by a naturally growing substance which can’t be patented for profit. So instead of wasting money incarcerating and destroying the lives people (who are disproportionately of minority demographic groups) for using this relatively innocuous substance, wouldn’t society be better served by regulating it and controlling it, rather than having untaxed money go into the hands of a criminal element?

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