Courts & Corrections

UPDATED: Limited marijuana legalization clears Legislature

Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, confers Friday with leadership about marijuana legalization. File photo by Erin Mansfield/VTDigger

(This story was updated May 10 at 4:35 p.m.)

With a historic vote Wednesday, the Vermont Legislature became the first in the country to send a marijuana legalization bill to its governor.

The House passed the latest version of a legalization proposal on a vote of 79-66. With the House’s approval, the bill, S.22, moves on to Gov. Phil Scott’s desk, where it could face a veto.

This is the first time any state legislature has passed pot legalization, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Eight states and Washington, D.C., have legalized already. All have done so by ballot measure.

Phil Scott
​Gov. Phil Scott. File photo by Erin Mansfield/VTDigger
The finalized version closely resembles a proposal the House passed last week, H.170, which would allow adults to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow a small number of plants at home. This would take effect in July 2018, one year after the House initially approved.

The bill will also create a commission of officials and members of the public to draw up legislation to establish a system to tax and regulate marijuana sales — the model of legalization favored by the Senate.

Last week, Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, who introduced the legalization amendment to legislation that originally related to fentanyl distribution penalties, billed the proposal as “a compromise” between the visions of legalization favored by the House and the Senate.

The House Judiciary Committee discussed the latest proposal Wednesday morning and recommended, on a vote of 8 to 3, that the House concur with the Senate’s bill.

In the course of more than an hour of discussion on the House floor in the afternoon, some lawmakers opposed the bill over concerns about road safety, health impacts and minors’ access to pot.

Kurt Wright
Rep. Kurt Wright, R-Burlington. File photo by John Herrick/VTDigger
Rep. Kurt Wright, R-Burlington, argued against legalization, saying that not enough is known about the impacts it may have.

“There are too many unanswered question to pass this at this time,” he said.

Others argued in favor, saying the step is a meaningful criminal justice reform and a due change in policy toward a substance many Vermonters already have access to.

Rep. David Yacovone, D-Morrisville, said the issue reminded him of an adage: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you always got.”

“I do not want what we have always gotten,” he said. He argued that changing marijuana policy would minimize the black market.

Some came to support the bill because it takes a step toward creating a regulated model, as opposed to the original House version, which did not. Rep. Laura Sibilia, I-Dover, said recent legalization in Massachusetts will affect her area, and she supports moving to a regulated system in Vermont to bring in revenue to address issues associated with pot.

Whether the governor will sign the bill remains a question. Scott told reporters Wednesday he will need to research the bill before he decides.

“It’s no secret that I don’t believe this is a priority for Vermont,” he said.

Scott said he is not familiar with the latest version of the bill, but he would like any move toward legalization to have more efforts in place to address impaired driving and youth access than previous proposals.

Scott said he has been in touch with other New England governors about marijuana, ahead of legalization in Massachusetts and Maine. And he does not expect the issue will go away in Vermont, even if S.22 does not become law.

“There are a number of other marijuana, pot bills still in play, so whether this one passes or not … it’s still going to come up in the future I believe,” Scott said.

The development prompted responses from advocates on both sides of the issue.

“We are disappointed by today’s vote in Vermont, but our fight is far from over,” said the president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, Kevin Sabet, in a statement.

Laura Subin, of the Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana, celebrated the House vote.

“It’s a measured proposal that meets the needs of both chambers. It’s a step forward for Vermont,” she said.
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  • Jason Brisson

    Scott may veto, but if he does, it will cost him a second term.

  • rosemariejackowski
  • Dominic Cotignola

    The time isn’t right? What? Mr. Scott, Where have you’ve been for the last 10yrs? Sign it and let’s move on already. Tweak the bill when needed in the future as you should.

    • walter carpenter

      “Mr. Scott, Where have you’ve been for the last 10yrs?”

      I think he’ll have to sign it at some point. I heard that New Hampshire is moving toward legalization as well. It may not get there this year, but I am sure other New England states are also considering it, and then Canada is as well. All those tourist dollars might suddenly get smaller if Governor Scott does not sign it.

  • Pete Novick

    “This is the first time any state legislature has passed pot legalization, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.”

    That’s because Vermont lacks a ballot initiative process.

    I believe Vermont needs a constitutional amendment to allow residents to petition the state government through ballot initiative, referendum and recall. Recall is vitally important, but I suggest initiative should top the list.

    States differ on the ballot, (aka popular), initiative processes, but the sequence of steps is similar:

    a. a preliminary filing of a proposed initiative

    b. an official review for compliance with statutory requirements

    c. circulation to obtain the required number of signatures

    d. verification of signatures by State authorities

    e. placement on the ballot for vote by the people

    It’s that simple.

    (As an aside, all States, including Vermont, permit legislative referenda, however, Vermont does not permit popular referenda.)

    Vermont would be a different place – a fairer and more equitable place – with ballot initiative, referendum and recall. Having these processes available under the Vermont Constitution would help restore the balance of power in favor of citizens.

    “Don’t bogart that joint, my friend.”

    – Little Feat, Waiting for Columbus album (1977)

    • walter carpenter

      “That’s because Vermont lacks a ballot initiative process.”

      Good point, Pete, thanks for mentioning it.

    • Dominic Cotignola

      I have lived in two states that have had referendums and it really does nothing but appease the public. In most cases, you hear that the initiative passed, then it’s stuck in the courts. Public think it’s law.

      If you want to tell your views and what you think of a propose law, call your representative.

      America was constructed on a representative Democracy, not a direct Democracy. Otherwise, Ms. Clinton would be President.

      • Matthew Davis

        “American was constructed on a representative Democracy, not a direct Democracy.” That is certainly debatable….

        If our representatives were to actually represent those that voted for them, then yes your point would be valid. However, I think we can all agree that is not always the case.

        • Dominic Cotignola

          Then let’s change the system instead of complaining that your guy is not representing you because he’s not 100% on your side.

          A true direct democracy is Switzerland. There laws are based on this. We have friends there and have stayed there for a few months. Although not perfect, it does work but that is not what we as Americans were taught in school or what our laws are based on from the founding fathers (go ahead, revise history).

          • Matthew Davis

            For a fine example of direct democracy look no further that VT Town Meeting, where Australian Ballot is used to decide a number of issue from school board budgets to new zoning regs. I suggest we start there as a model for true democracy….

      • Milo MacTavish

        representative republic. the Articles of Confederation established a representative democracy. they were immedately replaced.

      • Elise Eaton

        Thank god we are a representative Democracy.

    • Elise Eaton

      I completely agree on Vermont needs a ballot initiative process. I just suggested this to Gov. Scott in the e-mail I sent a few minutes ago urging him to veto S.22, ill-advised, narrow legislation that puts my public safety at risk. Once again, a special interest group wastes my taxpayer dollars that ought to be focused on fixing Vermont’s abysmal economy, a real issue.

  • Elizabeth Hook

    Just sign it please. Take the money away from criminal drug dealers, people can grow their own, 1 plant is enough for one person. It is a plant, yes people smoke it for effect, the same as having a beer or two or a cocktail, difference is, the legal alcohol is far deadlier in the hands of an alcoholic or a weekend warrior. I’ve never hear the words “Police were called to the scene of a stoners brawl”. Never heard of people causing domestic disputes because they were high on pot, never heard of cannabis mixed with certain drugs to be fatal. The benefits far out weigh any trouble that could be foreseen. In my opinion.

  • Dave Halstead

    Last week I picked up over 100 beer bottles and cans on a one mile stretch of dirt road five miles off the highway. It would be safe to say most of these litterers were DUI. The idea that cannabis users are a danger to public safety if driving is preposterous, ignorant and flies in the face of reality. Anyone driving after using cannabis is probably going at or under the speed limit, paying very close attention to the surroundings and enjoying the scenery. There is no test that will prove impairment and never will be. This is just a Trumpian canard designed to continue prohibition in perpetuity.

    • Jim Manahan

      On what basis would it “be safe to say most of these litterers were DUI, as opposed to working Joe having a beer on the way home, who tosses the can for you to retrieve so he doesn’t get popped for an open container violation?

  • Dave Halstead

    Last week I picked up over 100 beer bottles and cans on a one mile
    stretch of dirt road five miles off the highway. It would be safe to
    say most of these litterers were DUI. The idea that cannabis users are a
    danger to public safety if driving is preposterous, ignorant and flies
    in the face of reality. Anyone driving after using cannabis is
    probably going at or under the speed limit, paying very close attention
    to the surroundings and enjoying the scenery. There is no test that will
    prove impairment and never will be. This is just a Trumpian canard
    designed to continue prohibition in perpetuity.

    • Pat McGarry

      Several states- NV and CO, for example- use a per se limit for THC in blood to define impairment. In NV it is 2 ng/ mL. See http://www.shouselaw.com/nevada/dui/dui-marijuana.html

      • Dan DeCoteau

        What your are saying is that the police will be able to take your bodily fluids for proof of intoxication as a result of a road side stop? In Vermont currently the law is clear that you are not required to take a blood test for DUI unless you have been involved in a fatal accident that was your fault. Do you want the police to have this kind of power over you? The Supreme Court would surely rule against this on 4th and 5th amendment grounds. I’m sure the Vermont constitution would also be invoked here as a defense.

    • Matthew Davis

      There is a test…it’s called walk the yellow line and say the alphabet backwards. You don’t have to chemically test someone to determine if they are fit to operate a vehicle….

    • Peter Everett

      Are you going to report the money you received on turning the bottles in as income?. The Politicians are counting on every penny they can get.

      • Jason Brisson

        They’d get more $$ from the rent Mazza collects but doesn’t claim!

    • Richard Ley

      I totally disagree with you that most of the people throwing bottles and cans out the window are DUI drivers

      I would be more inclined to believe they are kids out driving around drinking and don’t want to be caught with any evidence in their car

      • Jason Brisson

        kids driving around drinking would be DUI drivers…

  • Milo MacTavish

    pot is a plant. it has existed longer than humans. the only regulation the government has any right to is as an agricultural commodity.

    • Peter Everett

      So, Heroin is derived from the Poppy plant. Should your analogy still hold true?

      • Jason Brisson

        “Heroin is derived from the Poppy plant.”
        So are the poppy seeds on your bagel, derived is the key word here.
        What do they call cannabis that’s been chopped up, and processed with industrial chemicals, into a concentrated injectable powder form of the psychoactive ingredient?
        There isn’t one…they just dry the plant and smoke it.

        • Peter Everett

          Let’s change it to processed. By drying, you process into a form you suggest. Since I’m a Boomer who is in the minority and never used any of these plant products, I admit that my knowledge is low in this area. I never found a need for using these products. It’s also been over 40 years since consuming any form of alcohol, tobacco, etc. Just realized that I had no desire for them. I also disassociated myself from those I thought used any of the aforementioned products. Guess that leaves me with very few in today’s society. I’m fine with that.

          • Matthew Davis

            What if you became ill and were prescribed a pain killer. Would you consider using cannabis instead of a pharmaceutical? People use cannabis for many more purposes than just getting high…

          • Peter Everett

            At my age there is no need for painkillers. I’ve had major surgeries, never took painkillers. Didn’t want to chance becoming dependent on them. Tough, but a decision I made for me. I don’t suggest that others do as I do. Anyway, according to Dr Ezekiel Emanuel, (a proponent of socialized medicine) I’m at the age where my access to medical help should be limited, at best. I’m retired and worthless to society (in his mind), therefore, little or no aid is needed. And, to answer your direct question, no I wouldn’t use cannabis, under any circumstance. This is my choice, not what others say I should do. I’m a stubborn person, too old to change now.

          • Jerry Kilcourse

            That’s fine and your decision… just don’t make everyone else follow your example.

          • Peter Everett

            I don’t.

          • Scott Pavek

            Nothing in your experience precludes you from supporting sensible reforms like S.22

          • Peter Everett

            If government changes the laws, I live with them. Doesn’t mean that I support or disapprove them. Only time will tell if sensible reform is what you say it is.

          • Jason Brisson

            “Let’s change it to processed. By drying, you process into a form you suggest.”
            Drying a plant is not processing.
            Industrial chemicals and processes are used to extract and concentrate the active compounds in poppy and coca plants to create heroin and cocaine.
            “I also disassociated myself from those I thought used any of the aforementioned products. Guess that leaves me with very few in today’s society.”
            I did the same with those that drink to excess, abuse prescription pills, use heroin and cocaine, or like to tell other people how they should live their lives. I’m fine with that too.

  • Forbes Morrell

    One tough decision for any governor ! Whether to sign a proposed legislation that could create a hardship for people or not? You wouldn`t like my decision! “Show me a 28% reduction in opiate and heroine use and I will considerate it”

  • JustinTurco

    Just say no! The guys from teen challenge say this is a gateway drug. Legitimizing it’s use by legalizing it is just a way to make users feel better about it. Smoke all you want but don’t ask me to tell you it’s okay. Legalizing pot is bad for our nation. It’s just one more step in our race to the bottom and I am sad to see how hard people will fight for things that make us weak.

    • Scott Pavek

      It’s a ‘gateway’ only as we treat it now. There is no causal relationship between experimenting with one drug and then another.

      We send messaging to kids that all drugs are bad and to be avoided at all costs. No lawful person (in VT, as of now) should use marijuana – unless medically prescribed. That’s what we tell them.

      Then, kids use marijuana. They find out it’s not so scary. Right or wrong, that undermines anti-drug messaging. If we lied to kids about marijuana, will they believe us about heroin?

      If it’s legal for adults? When kids experiment (not that anyone wants this to happen), they’ll be experimenting with a substance they know has been deemed safe for responsible adults. Perceived risk of marijuana use may drop, but if perceived risk of all other substances hold steady, aren’t we getting things right?

      And now that responsible adults may gain the option to grow their own marijuana, they won’t need to seek out the black market, where they may be exposed to more harmful substances. No more interacting with dealers who may or may not be interested in selling things other than marijuana.

      A legal market model (inevitable, IMHO) will do a lot of good in terms of restricting youth access.

      For now, this bill would give responsible adults the option to extricate themselves from the black market.

      Advocates aren’t fighting to get everyone to start using marijuana or to make drug use trendy – but stigmatization of use doesn’t do us any good, either.

      You say “smoke all you want, but don’t ask me to tell you it’s okay.” Marijuana users aren’t looking for your approval. I think they just don’t want to be jailed or treated like anathema.

      • JustinTurco

        Scott,
        You and the others who have responded make good cases. I’m holding my ground though. I totally agree regarding the alcohol and cigarettes also being gateway habits.

    • Jim Manahan

      If you’re looking for the true gateway drug, swing by your local State sanctioned liquor store.

      • Dominic Cotignola

        Or your local clinic that gives out harsher drugs because the patient saw a commercial on TV.

    • walter carpenter

      “The guys from teen challenge say this is a gateway drug.”

      I agree with Jim that the real gateway drug is the one that you find at your “state sanctioned liquor store.” And even more effective gateway drug that is perfectly legal is the one that you find at the convenience store or the supermarket that goes under the name of Marlboro, Salem, and so on.

      • Azur Moulaert

        Add salt, sugar and fat to that list

  • chris wilmot

    Scott is going to veto it. He is “waiting” so as to give the appearance that he “considered” approving this.

    Expect a sad face and a speech about how this is “rushed”, and that more time needs to be taken. Oh and public safety….and the kids- my god- think of the children….

    • Alyce Stein

      I’m afraid I agree. I wrote to Scott and received a form letter. Not much critical thinking required to regurgitate the worn out talking points.
      Governor, call Dr. McSherry for a basic overview of the science of cannabis.

  • Jerry Kilcourse

    I’m afraid that Scott will veto the bill as he already has made up his mind regardless of the reality of marijuana use or what the Legislature or the majority of Vermonters want.

    • walter carpenter

      “reality of marijuana use or what the Legislature or the majority of Vermonters want.”

      Sadly, you’re probably right.

  • Alyce Stein

    Rep. Batchelor’s (Derby) explanation for her “NO” vote on S 22 is naive, disdainful and painfully disconnected from reality:

    “How can we say we value and cherish our young children and then pass a bill that could put them in harm’s way? Shame on us!”

    We cherish our children, Rep. Batchelor, by educating them; by providing appropriate tools to help them navigate a complicated world. We TEACH them how to “stay out of harm’s way.” We offer support, guidance and our undivided attention. Above all, we don’t pretend that drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and strangers don’t exist.

    We are the village. No shame in that.

    • Lynette Kemp

      Ms. Stein, sadly, the reality is that our young people are not listening to the lessons we teach. We still see young adults drinking and driving. We still see them dying of heroin overdoses. We often hear of the promising young athlete bound for college who dies of an overdose, leaving a devastated family seeking answers to what went wrong. Surely there is plenty of information out there on those dangers. Surely caring, loving parents warn their children against these dangers. We can–and should–talk to our children about how marijuana can hurt their developing brains, about the statistics on traffic fatalities involving pot, blah, blah, blah. Will they listen and comprehend the dangers? Maybe, Maybe not. The very last hope and defense for loving, caring parents is to at least be able to say, “Don’t start using marijuana because it’s illegal.”

      • Alyce Stein

        “Don’t start using marijuana because it’s illegal” is still very much the case for those UNDER 2.1 I’m not sure how one would go about prohibiting someone over 21 from using; except through education.

      • Alyce Stein

        “Don’t start using marijuana because it’s illegal” is still very much the case for those UNDER 21. I’m not sure how one would go about prohibiting someone over 21 from using; except through education.

      • Alyce Stein

        “Don’t start using marijuana because it’s illegal.”
        It remains illegal for anyone UNDER 21. As I said privately, I don’t know how one goes about preventing someone over 21 except through education.

  • Dan DeCoteau

    Most voters go to the polls with very little understanding of what’s really in their best interest. Some go because they have always been a Democrat even though the tax policies and regulations hurts them financially. Republicans go to the polls to stop
    the never ending onslaught of progressives who have changed the values
    and vision that existed here before they came to take over the government and control everyone’s life from cradle to grave. Liberals are actually the party of regulation. We have all forgotten that being American is about the freedom of individual choice and responsibility. Liberals love regulation except when it comes to stopping something they want to do.

    I’m conservative and think the governor should sign this law for the sake of adult freedom and to put those law enforcement resources into the fight where it belongs in the opiate debacle and it’s deadly effects on our society. My worry is that the Senate and the House will figure a way to tax and regulate when the issue should be about stopping the continued arrest and ruination of people who may use marijuana as an alternative to alcohol. This issue is not going to go away and we all know how well prohibition turned out. Giving the state government more money does not mean that it will automatically become fiscally responsible. The state does not have a revenue problem it has a spending and over regulation problem. This bill is designed for the House and Senate to tap into another revenue source. If it wasn’t then why do they need a year for it to take effect. This is the catch 22 of the law (look it up). The governors concerns are for a road side intoxication test. Where does the governor think they are now, not driving on our roads. I’m more concerned with serial texters who can’t control a car and a cellphone at the same time. They are as dangerous as an alcoholic on the road..

    So if the governor signs this law, people will be needlessly arrested or fined in the next year for a law that has already been passed but not implemented. If he doesn’t sign it truck loads of marijuana will enter the state to fuel the supply and demand and the money will leave the state for future drug activity and the black market continues. The additional money that could be used against opiate dealers is wasted on a law in waiting and the fight goes on only to return again next year.

  • Rich Lachapelle

    This sloppy, hurried-up version of a bill that has broad societal implications should not be mistaken for a “civil rights” action or as freedom-promoting. It was passed in this form by the demo-progs for exactly TWO REASONS:
    -to put our Republican Governor on the spot.
    -for the publicity seekers in the legislature to get their day in the sun as the first legislature to enact legalization.
    This was a purely political action by folks who dream of the day they can stand on the steps of the state house next to the statue of Ethan Allen and be interviewed by one of their idols from MSNBC or CNN. They claimed it was too late in the session to debate about making teacher benefits uniform statewide and then they pass this in the dark of night. They will “tidy it up” in a subsequent session so they can do with it what they really intended from the start, a commercial market which they can milk for tax and regulatory revenue.

    • Jason Brisson

      “This was a purely political action”
      Yep, had nothing to do with the will of a majority of Vermonters…

    • Scott Pavek

      This proposal has been vetted for years. What’s sloppy?

    • Peter Straube

      Actually, this bill is the result of over two years of varied proposals, study, testimony and debate. The component of the bill that will establish a commission to recommend a system for taxing and regulating sales means it will be at least another year (and possibly more) before any further changes are made. I can’t think of any other bill that has been considered longer and more thoroughly than this one and what we have ended up with is really only a very small step. If the Governor vetoes it, he will clearly be demonstrating that he doesn’t support the will of the majority of legislators, not to mention the majority of Vermonters.

      • Richard Ley

        Could it be a concern for governor Scott regarding the people of Vermont because there is absolutely no way to test drivers to see if they are over the limit on pot

        • Jason Brisson

          Cannabis affects people differently than alcohol, so “over the limit” can be very different. The same field sobriety test for alcohol would suffice.

  • walter carpenter

    “It was passed in this form by the demo-progs for exactly TWO REASONS:”

    Well, they are your two reasons anyway, but do not forget that other states and the nation of Canada — the entire nation — is legalizing marijuana. Maine and Mass already have, New Hampshire is considering it, and it is working its way through their legislature now, and other states are legalizing it. But, also, the legislature saw that our former policy regarding marijuana was a total failure and that all it accomplished was to enrich the black market.

    • Rich Lachapelle

      See how you feel about this “civil liberties issue” when you get pulled over and are asked to provide a saliva sample.

  • Lynette Kemp

    Whenever I voice my skepticism about the legalization of recreational marijuana, I get push back from pro-legalization folks with their favorite theme: You are ignorant of the facts. Educate yourself. So I have. I have read many articles, pro and con, about the effects of marijuana on people who live in states where pot is legal for recreational use. Here are a few relevant articles from reputable sources that I’d like to share:

    http://www.aappublications.org/news/2017/05/04/PASMarijuana050417

    http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/article-abstract/2619521?utm_source=FBPAGE&utm_medium=social_jn&utm_term=863108328&utm_content=content_engagement%7carticle_engagement&utm_campaign=article_alert&linkId=36655192

    http://www.ghsa.org/resources/drugged-driving-2017

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/drugged-driving-eclipses-drunken-driving-in-tests-of-motorists-killed-in-crashes/2017/04/25/38c01b4c-291a-11e7-a616-d7c8a68c1a66_story.html?utm_term=.f1065cf2c1c8

    https://finance.yahoo.com/news/cartels-growing-marijuana-illegally-california-194700553.html

    From what I have read, marijuana is not harmless. It is not necessarily less harmful than alcohol. It has not stopped the growth of the illegal or black market (it is actually increasing illegal activity in some states because the profits are too tempting for gangs to pass up). It has harmed children and young adults, and that is my main concern about legalizing recreational marijuana. What I have read does not support legalization.

    That said, I am resigned to the fact that popular opinion based on misinformation and preconceived notions has influenced our legislators and maybe our governor. Pro-legalization advocates scorn the “reefer madness” propaganda of the 20th century, but I urge them to become more aware of what is happening today. I just hope our representatives and the citizens of Vermont have a full understanding of what we are getting ourselves into if we legalize recreational marijuana.

    • Matthew Davis

      “It has harmed children and young adults, and that is my main concern about legalizing recreational marijuana” So clearly prohibition hasn’t worked then…

      • Lynette Kemp

        Perhaps not. But if you read the articles I have posted, you might understand that legalizing it can make the situation worse, not better. I hope that when our lawmakers and our governor consider bills affecting the health and well-being of their constituents that they would have the approach of “first, do no harm,” particularly in regard to our most vulnerable, our children and young adults.

        We have a prohibition against selling cigarettes to young people under the age of 18. I still see lots of young people smoking. Prohibition has clearly not worked here. Should we then remove it and allow any one of any age to be able to purchase cigarettes? Maybe you are fine with that based on your logic, but I am not.

        • Jason Brisson

          “I hope that when our lawmakers and our governor consider bills affecting the health and well-being of their constituents that they would have the approach of “first, do no harm,” particularly in regard to our most vulnerable, our children and young adults.”
          People are advocating for adults to be able to consume cannabis without persecution, not kids. Secondly, I’d counter there is more “harm” in perpetuating the false narrative to youth that cannabis is evil, instead of educating them about its positive and negative effects. As soon as they try it and realize they’ve been spoon fed propaganda, they question everything else they’ve ever been, or continue to be told, whether there is truth to it or not.
          “Prohibition has clearly not worked here.”
          Exactly why its time to try a different approach!

          • Lynette Kemp

            Is marijuana “evil”? I don’t believe it’s evil. There is a lot of evil in the world, and marijuana does not rise to that level. But marijuana is not good either. It is not harmless. Whenever I hear that marijuana is not as bad as alcohol, my response is that poisonous spiders may not be as bad as poisonous snakes, but they can still harm us. Just because something is not as bad as something else doesn’t mean it is good.

            I believe it is naive to think that legalization for adults won’t impact children. If you legalize it for adults, it is giving the green light to children, too. It is an implicit message to youth that if it can’t harm mom and dad, it won’t harm you. That is a false assumption. According to many medical studies I have read, marijuana harms developing brains, even into adulthood (over 21).

            Jason, if you as an adult want to sit in your home or your friend’s home and smoke pot to your heart’s content, I could care less. All I ask is that you don’t get in a car and drive–for your safety and mine. I am fine with decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana. A fine is ok with me. We don’t need to send people to jail for an ounce of pot. But in the larger scheme of things, I am not ok with legalizing marijuana for recreational use. It has serious negative mental health consequences, particularly for youth and young adults.

            Both sides of the issue are guilty of propoganda. Studies on the effects of legalization in Colorado and other states with legal marijuana are just now being conducted. Not enough time has passed to study this thoroughly. Let’s watch and wait to see evidence-based outcomes first before rushing into legalization. Let’s not depend on one’s personal experience or anecdotes, both pro and con. Let’s take a cautious approach.

            The reason I am against this bill is because I see this as the first step to full legalization of a drug for recreational use. I still think the jury is out on this issue. Vermont should wait and learn from other states first.

          • JT Bedard

            Actually, the efficacy of Cannabis and cannabinoids is documented at great length. The very facts that Cannabis is clinically non-toxic as determined by the DEA’s own laboratory combined with the lack of any causative lethality in recorded history sets the foundation. When you combine the non-toxicity/non-lethality with the stimulation of the endogenous cannabinoid system and both CB1 and CB2 receptors, it is a plain as day to anyone practicing intellectual honesty and critical thinking that this medicine has been demonized by a well-funded campaign of disinformation and hysteria.

            So, I appreciate your willingness to entertain dialogue in this subject. But your erudition does not make you any more right.

          • Richard Ley

            Just what are the positive effects of smoking marijuana

          • Jason Brisson

            Medicine

          • Larry Rudiger

            “Positive,” according to whom? Who made you the arbiter of this matter?

    • Peter Straube

      Lynette, I appreciate your concern for basing policy on facts and that you have provided information for us to consider. So I took the time to review your sources to further educate myself on this issue of whether legalization leads to increased use among children and young adults, since that is surely an important concern. But I feel like I wasted my time, because there’s nothing of substance in any of these articles.

      * Your first source quotes a study that concluded that annual urgent care visits in Colorado by 13-21 year-olds who tested positive for marijuana “increased rapidly after legalization of marijuana for commercialized medical and recreational use”. But they based this on data they collected for 2005-2014, which took place BEFORE Colorado legalized recreational marijuana. That kind of basic factual error completely discredits this source.

      * Your second source contains this line, “To our knowledge, research to date has not documented an increase in cannabis use by adolescents in the United States overall or in those states that enacted new marijuana laws.” That statement surely doesn’t support your position–it suggests just the opposite.

      * Regarding articles from your other three sources: GHSA, Washington Post and Yahoo Finance: there is nothing in any of these that even touches on the issue of changes in usage rates after legalization, so they are irrelevant to this discussion we’re having here.

      So here we’ve got five sources providing zero data to support the assertion that legalization will create new problems. I think this is one reason why many people see the anti-legalization position as just “all drugs are evil” messaging. Yes, by all means let’s educate ourselves–these are important policy decisions. But if we want to change people’s minds about the question of legalization, it’s best to make sure we’re using substantiated facts, not just expressing our fears.

      • Lynette Kemp

        Mr. Straube,
        Thank you for actually reading these articles. However, our approaches to reading them differ. You have taken great care to select certain statements and statistics from these readings, out of context, to support your stance on this issue. I prefer to take the article as a whole piece, trying to understand the overall message the writer or subject matter expert is trying to convey.

        The overall message of these articles is that more study is required to learn the dangers of marijuana before we legalize it for recreational use. (As you probably know, marijuana is more powerful than in decades past, and so what was true about the effects of pot in 1960, 1970 . . 2000 is probably not true today.) In the first article, the author states the number of hospital visits by youth has been trending upward since 2005 to 2014 before, as you point out, the legalization of marijuana in most states.

        “The state-level effect of marijuana legalization on adolescent use has only begun to be evaluated,” [George Sam Wang, M.D., FAAP] said. “As our results suggest, targeted marijuana education and prevention strategies are necessary to reduce the significant public health impact of the drug can have on adolescent populations, particularly on mental health.”

        Read that article again. There is no contradiction or factual error. The article does not claim to have conducted a study of hospital visits after legalization. Rather, it notes the upward trend prior to legalization and calls for MORE STUDY.

        That point was implicit to my original post. Now I see I should have been explicit in saying that we need more study before launching our state into legalization. States like Colorado, Washington, and others are conducting a big experiment on their citizens. For example, Colorado legalized edibles and then saw that it was getting into the hands of children and sickening those who didn’t understand that ingesting marijuana in a gummy bear is very different than smoking it. Now they have tightened their laws on edibles.

        I disagree with you on your contention that the other articles do not support my point that marijuana may have harmful effects on individuals and society as a whole. But we will let intelligent readers decide on their own.

        In the end, I advocate for watching carefully what is happening in real time in states that have already legalized recreational marijuana. Let Vermont and Vermonters learn lessons from them FIRST before starting our own experiment in our precious state.

    • Alyce Stein

      You have to keep voicing your skepticism. It invites pro cannabis advocates to revisit the science and the ever changing data. Continuing to educate ourselves with an open mind is paramount.

      • Peter Straube

        Alyce, I totally agree with you that skepticism is healthy and we need to continue to educate ourselves with an open mind. But why it is only important for pro-cannabis advocates to revisit the science? Shouldn’t everyone do that? And can you provide at least one specific example of how the data has been “ever changing”? I’m trying to educate myself, but I am honestly struggling to find anything that backs up the assertion that legalization for those over 21 will cause a significant increase in use among children and young adults. I keep asking, but I’m still waiting…

  • Douglas Shane

    The Automobile Club of America (AAA) has been publishing some important statistics about the increase in traffic-related accidents and deaths in states where marijuana use has been legalized. But who cares about facts when a supposed majority want their pot? After all, it’s not like there are problems with opioids or alcohol. Think I’ll just stay off the road…

  • Douglas Shane

    And of course our fellow citizens are so responsible that they would no more drive stoned than they would drunk…

  • Richard Ley

    I asked my doctor what he thought about the State of Vermont legalizing marijuana and he said it would be the biggest mistake the state ever made

    • Nicole Boar

      Your doctor said that because he gets money from the pharmaceutical companies for pushing their drugs. Cannabis has been around longer than chemical drugs have. It is a herb, it is non toxic and actually good for the body.
      Drs. are not much more than drug pushers. get a clue.

    • Jason Brisson

      Everyone has a right to their opinion.

    • Alyce Stein

      Did he say why? Three physicians have told me that there are a number of ailments that benefit from cannabis – arthritis, epilepsy (Gravet), nausea, anxiety (depends on the strain) eating disorders, chronic pain…the list goes on.

  • Alyce Stein