Apr 172016
 
marijuana rejected

Reason list for why S.241 (An act relating to regulation of marijuana) should be rejected by the Legislature of the State of Vermont.

April 8, 2016

By Bob Orleck, a retired pharmacist and lawyer who served as an assistant attorney general under Vermont Attorney General M. Jerome Diamond and is opposed to S.241 and especially to the part of the legislation that establishes a system to license stores to sell marijuana.

  • First of all I have provided some links to helpful websites and articles.
  • Following that list are 53 items (simple phrases or statements that are intended to generate thought on the point raised. Some have references so you can check out the point or do additional reading. I suggest since this is sent to you on-line that you can use a word search that might help you find some reference to the issue you are interested in the document.
  • Finally there are a few narratives that could be helpful to some in giving an overall critical look at the legislation to help you decide how to vote.

The sources and ideas are taken from items I have written, others have written in comments to marijuana issues and thoughts given to me in other media. The intent is not to be comprehensive in resource identification because this entire document needed to be done quickly since the bill is moving quickly. That being said, there are a number of things written that have sources which are primarily links to the articles written or to websites that might be helpful to you. If you have need of more documentation on the source I will gladly try to provide that on request.

Without a doubt this document is intended to point out the problems with legalization and especially with establishing a system of state authorized stores to sell marijuana. It may seem a bit long but that should make you as a legislator think that if there is that much to say about this then maybe it is something that should not be rushed into. There are many things in the works in other states, in the federal government and the medical field related to this drug that should be resolved before Vermont jumps into the arena in such a big way. We already have authorized medical marijuana, decriminalized simple possession so the arguments by the zealous users of marijuana that speak of imprisonment and ruination of a user’s record do not exist. The emotion should be taken out of the equation and your vote should be based on facts, primarily from medical, law enforcement, legal and educational experts.

There is no need to rush passage of this legalization bill and it is likely that we are all going to get stung if we do. If it really is a good thing to do we can do it later. If we are rushing just to beat Massachusetts or some other local state or want to get it passed before there is a political change in Vermont, then honesty should tell you this is the wrong way to go.

Please contact me, Bob Orleck by email at bob@ussorleck.com or P.O. Box 174, Randolph, VT 05060. Phone 802-728-9806.

Links to helpful websites and articles

  1. This is the current position of the White House on the various aspects of marijuana including legalization issues, danger issues and clearly is a positon that legalization is wrong and bad for our citizens. The position here should be dispositive and I would suggest that all legislators read this very carefully. It is only one page. Then go to the website that is cited that gives you the most current information on the matter according to federal law. The document makes it very clear that what the states are doing with respect to legalization does not change the law that possession and use of marijuana violates federal law and is a serious crime. https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/ondcp/issues-content/marijuana_and_public_health_one_pager_-_final.pdf
  2. Smart Approaches to Marijuana website. A great source and if you want a real surprise take a look at the chart you will see on the first page that lists the National and State organizations who do NOT support the legalization of marijuana. http://sam-vt.org/
  3. http://www.vtdigger.org has done considerable coverage on both sides of the marijuana legalization issue. The articles and commentaries are listed in a posted archive that you can review to find a relevant document or if you wish to review the comments of readers. http://vtdigger.org/tag/marijuana/
  4.  Recent report by SAM on three years of legalization in Colorado and Washington. http://vtdigger.org/2016/02/18/new-sam-report-documents-impact-of-three-years-of-marijuana-legalization-in-colorado-and-washington/
  5. This is a health assessment report from our own State of Vermont on the dangers of marijuana use. 83 page Health Assessment report of the Vermont Department of Health. http://healthvermont.gov/pubs/healthassessments/documents/HIA_marijuana_regulation_in_vermont_201601.pdf

Fifty Three Items to think about before voting on S.241.

1. What is driving the rush to get this so called legalization of marijuana bill passed this session? Our state leaders, seeing the prospect of a political change, are pushing not for the legalization of marijuana as much as the commercialization of marijuana. The proponents see this as a “now or not for a long time” chance to get this all passed. As a result they are trying to rush this through in spite of all the clear arguments to the contrary that shows we must slow this down and not rush it.

2. Marijuana use will increase if this bill is passed. This fact is even supported by the figures provided by Senator Benning, a sponsor of the bill. So there will be the stores that the Rand Study projects could generate as much as $300,000,000 in sales. Senator Benning says there is $225,000,000 in sales in Vermont now. Not sure how he knows that since I doubt that drug dealers report their income but even if so it far exceeds the drugs that will be sold under the new law in the stores and that does not take into account the illegal drug sales that will continue as well.

3. So, will use rise if bill passes? From the above it sounds like it or it sounds like people will be exporting it to other states. When anyone over the age of 21 can buy it at the corner store youth use will rise. It’ll be sold downstream at a much higher rate than alcohol or tobacco. It’s more socially accepted, harder to track, easier to use and transport, and much more fun. Teens test the limit and take risks. Even if one were to accept a reduction in black marked marijuana this means that teens will be smoking marijuana with THC levels far in excess of what’s available today and they will be doing it more frequently.

4. Contrary to the claim of its proponents, this bill will not reduce use.

5. Contrary to the claim of its proponents, this bill will not do away with the black market. In fact competitively it will put the illegal seller in a better position to compete.

6. Governor’s Shumlin’s goal of eliminating the black market through low taxing of marijuana: The goal of the governor to eliminate the black market through low taxing of marijuana sales is folly. Governor Shumlin in his State of the State message set forth five goals for legislation legalizing marijuana. The most ridiculous of those goals was the one that envisioned the eradication of the black market and drug dealers by keeping the tax low enough to drive them out of business. No further comment needs to be made to show how stupid that goal is!

7. Edibles: These can be a serious health hazard to children who will not see the danger in a brownie or a piece of candy. Sure the legislators including Senator Benning who said to me personally that the legislation does not allow the sale of edibles and yet according to a report in vtdigger “Nonprofit medical dispensaries that now are the only legal outlet for the purchase of marijuana would be allowed to become for profit entities and would be the only source of certain pot products, including tinctures and edibles.” Read it again. It looks like edibles could be in Vermont sooner than later. Also the legislation does establish a Commission to study edibles. Why would they study edibles unless they were considering selling them? The legislation (as currently written) does not include edibles. Are we being deceived? If we are not going to sell edibles why is the Commission that is established in the legislation studying and making recommendations about edibles?

8. The black market will be encouraged by this legislation. The high fees for licenses, the requirement to grow under lock and key, the prohibition on edibles (right now at least and which made up 40% of Colorado’s sales), and the high tax rate will force establishments to charge high prices in order to show a profit. They will not undersell the existing and cheaper black market. There will also be a black market sector made up of existing home-growers who see no need to get a license or pay for chain link fencing.

9. Colorado’s experience is that the illegal market did not disappear with legalization.

10. More on the illegal drug dealers being encouraged. Why is state sanctioned marijuana not a negative entry into the market for illegal drug dealers? The approach that Vermont is currently considering establishes licensing for growers and stores to sell the product so you can clearly see it is not just about a simple legalization. There will be a 25% tax on the product and high fees for growers and there will be high overhead costs related to the establishment of stores and the attendant costs coming from property maintenance. There will also be employee salary, benefit and other such costs. Why do the proponents then think this will drive out the black market? The illegal drug dealer works out of his/her car trunk without the burden of taxes or store overhead. The dealer will welcome the competition for it will make his product quite attractive to those inclined to buy.

11. Law Enforcement Raises Road Safety Resources as Pot Concern. http://vtdigger.org/2016/03/28/law-enforcement-raises-road-safety-resources-as-pot-concerns/ Because this is such an important piece to consider in determining whether to legalize or not and especially to authorize stores to sell marijuana or not, bullet points to the key statements by law enforcement leaders are presented here that come from the article.

Key law enforcement figures raised concerns about road safety, many testifying that legalizing marijuana would increase the number of impaired drivers on Vermont roads. Keith Flynn, who heads the Department of Public Safety, also emphasized that legalization could be a big drain on Vermont’s law enforcement resources, which are already stretched thin in the face of increasing opiate use and addiction.

The head of the Vermont State Police said much the same thing. “We are overwhelmed at this point,” said Col. Matt Birmingham of the prevalence of opiates in Vermont. Birmingham told the committee he sees many public safety issues around legalization of marijuana and has concerns about how enforceable the law would be. He said the state police are not staffed to be able to accommodate an increase in impaired drivers that would follow legalization. It would be a big task for a small state like Vermont to stamp out the black market in marijuana on its own, he said. Legalization in Vermont could have a spillover effect on metropolitan areas in neighboring states and across the border in Canada.

Former Burlington Police Chief Michael Schirling said he sees marijuana as a “peripheral issue.” He testified against the bill, saying the time is not right. The pace, he said, “seems beyond frenzied to me.” Schirling said legalization of marijuana would burden the state in trying to address not only highway safety but educational outcomes and health care costs as well. The former chief, who retired from the helm of the Burlington Police Department last year, said he saw thousands of examples of marijuana use in the course of his three-decade career “that simply do not match the narrative that is being spun to you in support of legalization.”

Transportation Secretary Chris Cole cited statistics from 2015. Of the 68 drivers who were involved in fatal crashes that year, one-third was impaired by some substance. Half of those drivers were found to have marijuana — either alone or in combination with another substance — in their systems. Some people are already buying and using marijuana illegally, and they may be driving. Others might begin buying and using it if it were legal. But Cole said the biggest question mark in considering marijuana legalization is the market made up of people who will come from out of state. “We don’t know how many people are going to come to our state to buy marijuana legally,” Cole said. “We just don’t know.”

12. Drugged drivers (Tourists) “The legislation legalizes marijuana effective January 2, 2018. In the first six months of the fiscal year, a 25 percent tax would generate between $5.6 million and $8.7 million, according to estimates from the Joint Fiscal Office.” This is deceptive because while this sounds like a lot of money if they were to give us an analysis that included “drug tourists” from Montreal, Boston, New York, etc., the amount of money would be obscene and our state will be known as a “drug mecca”. Just imagine all the drugged drivers and skiers. Do this and they will come! The Rand Study indicates the revenue from Drug Tourists could result in revenues being as high as $75,000,000. The sad part is the administration is pretending this is not going to happen when in fact it is exactly what they are planning for and want.

13. Costs related to drug tourism and the draw of homeless will increase the costs related to crime, Medicaid and other state services.

14. The State of Vermont could arguably be held liable in a civil case for death or injury caused by a drugged driver who bought their marijuana from a state authorized store. It is only a logical extension and we know the innovative abilities of lawyers to find a cause of action. The cause of action will flow from the reason that the state acted illegally under federal law. Not only that the passage of this legislation will be going contrary to our own State Police and seems contrary to our own Department of Health as well as many other national and state organizations that have strong factual reasons for their opposition. Lawyers see the state with deep pockets and will pursue that and will use our own agencies opposition against us.

15. Blood, breath or saliva testing. Tests now are not able to do more than detect whether drug has been used sometime in a definable past. No way to determine impairment levels. If marijuana is legal this even complicates the matter for law enforcement. See article and comments in vtdigger article http://vtdigger.org/2016/03/30/house-panel-explores-roadside-saliva-testing/?utm_source=VTDigger+Subscribers+and+Donors&utm_campaign=6139355fa0-Weekly+Update&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_dc3c5486db-6139355fa0-405544681

16. Big money interests will push for increased use of marijuana. The high fees and taxes combined with cultivation requirements for year-round production (indoor facilities, heat, artificial lighting, pumped ground water, fungicides and insecticides) will require very large investments up front. As with the tobacco industry, the marijuana industry will need to target teens and young adults to survive, because people who start young are most likely to become heavy users. They will need new customers once these stores are established.

17. Marijuana negatively affects brain development in children and young adults. There is little doubt that marijuana is harmful to some brains, especially developing ones, and the human brain is developing up to age 25.

18. Student use will cause short term memory and motivation loss.

19. Legalization is a bad signal to send to our youth about drug use.

20. Second hand pot smoke. The bill does not prohibit the use of marihuana in the presence of those less than 21 years of age. It should be added to the bill!

21. Legalization sends a message that implies safety when even the proponents tell us there are dangers from marijuana. Their suggestion that legalization and regulation will reduce those dangers is not borne out by the facts.

22. Drug impaired drivers will kill and maim more Vermont citizens.

23. Marijuana is proven to worsen mental illness in mentally ill people who use marijuana. How can one additional young person suffering from schizophrenia worth any amount of potential financial gain for the state, much less psychotropic effects some find recreational.

24. Mental health workers issue: Where are we going to find enough qualified mental health workers to fill the openings? Trained practitioners have not been applying for jobs in Vermont. The state hospital and our regional mental health centers are understaffed and overloaded already, while many beds remain empty because there is no one to provide the necessary care to one more patient. We can’t even fill the positions that are already open. This law will lead to more need for mental health services.

25. High THC marijuana can lead to an increased incidence of, earlier and more severe psychosis, and actual schizophrenia in youth who are already predisposed due to genetic and sometimes other risk factors.

26. Possession of marijuana is still a violation of Federal Law. Even though the current Federal Administration is not enforcing the law, a change of administrations in Washington could reverse that overnight. Considering the investment alone. This would be an enormous cost for the state to face. The complex administrative details that would be in place would have to be reversed and it is incalculable what the financial burden of such would be. The stores that sell marijuana would have to close and the jobs in the industry would be lost. Vermont would have no excuse for they are gambling with openly violating the “rule of law’.

27. The administration projects that the total cost of legalizing pot in the next fiscal year would be $2.21 million across the departments of Public Safety, Health, Tax and Agriculture, according to Finance and Management Commissioner Andy Pallito. The annualized cost of implementation could run as high as $12 million. As time goes on those costs of administration will grow and what if the federal government revises its position on enforcing the federal law violation created by the legislation legalizing marijuana and establishing stores? The result could be devastating.

28. Revenue gain long term is illusory. Other close states may in fact beat Vermont to the punch in legalizing. I.e.: Massachusetts

29. Legalizing some marijuana and not legalizing other forms such as tinctures and edibles will set up market demand to be supplied by the black market for those items. Thus the intent to reduce the illegal sellers will actually encourage a niche market for edibles and tinctures.

30. The establishment of stores will create a monopoly for a few who will gain great wealth at the expense of the poor who use such drugs.

31. “Gov. Peter Shumlin, meanwhile, is all for legalization. Shumlin has long supported the regulation and taxation of pot and has received major campaign contributions from the Marijuana Policy Project, a pro-legalization outfit based in Washington, D.C.” http://vtdigger.org/2015/12/29/session-preview-2015-marijuana-legalizations-last-best-chance/ No more need be said about that!

32. The establishment of stores to sell marijuana is crony capitalism at its worst. This is not about a simple legalization of recreational marijuana for adults. It is about much more. It is about large corporate interests controlling a new cash cow industry which will lead by necessity to marketing and increased usage. It will lead to “drug tourists” coming to Vermont and driving drugged while here thus increasing the rate of drug impaired driving accidents and death. It will lead to the message of hypocrisy to youth that drugs are OK for adults over 21 but not for us. “Sure!” they will say!

33. If marijuana is legalized it will be commercialized, advertised, and normalized like the tobacco and alcohol industry has done. Both of these substances are very dangerous so what makes us believe the same process won’t be applied to marijuana who the proponents claim is not as dangerous?

34. Setting up stores to sell marijuana that will be sold at a higher price than illegal sellers charge will not reduce sales to locals by illegal drug dealers but will lure out-of-state drug tourists to come, use and drive impaired on our roads.

35. Establishing Vermont as a “drug mecca” will discourage some industry that is looking for a state to locate their business. This will have a negative connotation to many who would look to establish a business here or to bring their family here.

36. The plan to gain revenue from the sale of marijuana to fund treatment for those who use it and to fund enforcement for those who use it and drive and to prevent people from using the drug is clearly ill thought.

37. Will another New England state beat Vermont to the punch in legalizing marijuana? “Vermont governor says marijuana edibles make for ‘bad pot bill’ in Mass.” https://www.boston.com/news/local-news/2016/03/28/vermont-governor-says-marijuana-edibles-mean-bad-pot-bill-in-mass Doesn’t look like this discussion matters if MA passes a legal Marijuana law (On the ballot for Nov) – all that tax money the state wants is lost for a very short drive south or southeast. Sounds like the same issue we have with the NH liquor store, cigarette taxes, etc.

38. Top Vermont Doctors warn against legalizing marijuana: http://vtdigger.org/2016/01/29/top-vermont-doctors-warn-lawmakers-about-legal-pot/ Nationally, the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Society of Addiction Medicine, the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association have all made public statements opposing the legalization of marijuana.

39. Does marijuana put people in risk of other addictions? Current and prestigious report shows dire relationships of marijuana to other addictions: JAMA Comprehensive study showing marijuana use is tied to nicotine, alcohol and drug dependence. Journal of the America Medical Association (JAMA) on Feb 17, 2016, reported on a study of close to 35,000 people (approximately half men and half women) that shows marijuana use is tied to nicotine, alcohol and drug dependence. The study is mentioned in this link at http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-02/tjnj-wir021516.php and there is a link to the JAMA abstract regarding the study.

What is sad about this is that this is a very definitive broad based study that will be ignored by the deniers that marijuana puts people at risk of other addictions.

40. Much of what drives the public discussion is “self-indulgence and personal gain”. A careful review of the comments to articles in vt.digger.org shows this very thing. Just look at the comments after an opinion piece by a mother who had lost a child to drugs. One very insensitive comment was even deleted by the publisher because it was so insensitive. http://vtdigger.org/2016/03/10/linda-mulley-reconsider-marijuana-legalization/?utm_source=VTDigger+Subscribers+and+Donors&utm_campaign=26538bcef0-Weekly+Update&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_dc3c5486db-26538bcef0-405544681 A review of the comments and the thumbs down and up will show the mind-set of many of those advocating for legalizing of marijuana.

41. 20% of the customers make up 80% of the sales but the medical, relational and societal costs of that use by that 20% are great on the remaining 80%.

42. Proponents say it is hard to die from marijuana overdose. If the only measure of a drug’s safety was it having a LD (lethal dose), then any side effect short of death is an invalid consideration in whether a drug should be legalized. It is significant enough that mental health conditions are worsened, children suffer brain development problems and people do die on the road as the result of drug impaired driving. There are many other reasons why marijuana should be and is at presently illegal to possess and sell according to federal law.

43. Prohibition argument is phony. To say not allowing legal pot for all “adults” is prohibition is analogous to saying we have antibiotic, chemotherapy, narcotic and all prescription drugs prohibition. So what is the difference making a medicinal substance that has a side effect of causing schizophrenia non-prescription and making all medications non-prescription for those considered “adults”?

44. More on prohibition: We are talking about allowance of marijuana by the state here not prohibition. Recognizing that all the dangers are real the bill proponents think that this bill will reduce them. If we were talking about a simple legalization for individuals to grow and use a small amount for personal use, while not ideal, would be better than state authorized sales. Prohibition prohibits those without connections from getting something. Legalization opens access. Throwing your hands up in “failure” is a horribly weak argument.

45. Drug impaired driving in Colorado- In 2014, the first year that marijuana stores were open in Colorado, the state suffered a 32% increase in marijuana-related traffic deaths in just one year; marijuana-related traffic deaths made up 20% of all traffic deaths that year, while the number of THC-impaired drivers, as determined by active marijuana blood tests, increased by 45%. Washington State reported almost a doubling of active marijuana blood tests in impaired drivers since they legalized recreational marijuana. Our state police are already shorthanded – by as many as 16 troopers – due to budget cuts and age attrition. The state cannot afford the added troopers that legal recreational marijuana would require.

46. Is it easier for children to get marijuana than alcohol? Marijuana is not easier for kids to get than alcohol, and our high school use rates reflect this: according to the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 30% of Vermont high school students report drinking, while only 22% report using marijuana. Why the difference? Alcohol is legal, thus more available and perceived as less risky. In Colorado, in the first two years of legalization, high school use rates went up by 20% and college-age rates went up 17%.

47. Black market in Colorado is still functioning in spite of legal sales: See “If you think Colorado’s legalization of marijuana retail sales killed the black market, think again.” http://www.cnbcprime.com/marijuana/video/pot-after-hours-the-black-market/

48. Conflict of Interest-Senator Zuckerman-This bill should include the following provision: Any state employee and elected official must wait a minimum of 5 years after leaving state government before having any involvement in this industry.

49. Legalization and the 25% tax is really a tax on the poor. Just as with lottery tickets. The poor buy more and the taxes on the sale take a larger percentage of their income. Same with beer and cigarettes and gasoline taxes. The rich can afford to pay such taxes but every time the taxes are raised on these items the poor get hit the hardest.

50. No homegrown, at least at the moment. “The legislation does not allow the sale of homegrown pot…” That is because the state does not want any competition. But there will be an effort to add homegrown especially if the proponents see the need to gain allies in their push for commercialized stores to raise the dirty revenue money they so much want. There will be an attempt to expand the bill to include home growing as well as keeping the commercial stores. The current bill is a far cry from the simple marijuana legalization bill that many try to make us believe that S.241 is about and they will be willing to add more in order to make it happen for them. The Vermont Libertarian Party by press release is calling for just that: http://vtdigger.org/2016/04/01/vermont-libertarian-party-urges-vermont-house-to-add-home-growing-back-into-legalization-bill/#respond Even though the addition of homegrown pot will add complex law enforcement issues to the mix they will do it if they need to do it because greed works that way.

51. The sales will have to be cash. Since this law will create commerce that is still in violation of federal law, banks can’t or won’t provide financial services. This will create a dangerous situation where large amounts of cash have to be handled at the stores and somehow processed to pay bills and the like of the stores. Imagine the criminal temptation that this will bring to minds of some of our less than fine citizens. There is some indication that VSECU has signaled that they would allow marijuana dispensaries to open checking and savings accounts. It sure is not the Savings and Loan concept that we would have seen from George Bailey’s institution in the classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” movie. It is a shame that VSECU is potentially making this legislation work. Even so the cash problem will exist since customers buying will have to buy with cash (no credit cards will be allowed) and the stores will have to handle large amounts of cash to be taken to the credit union even if that works out. Will highway robbery be in our future? This should be enough of a problem to put a halt on the whole matter of stores to sell marijuana.

52. Personal liberty and privacy. The argument goes something like this: “No one, no government, no ruler, or authority should have the right to tell me what I can and cannot put in my body if I am not hurting another living being by doing it. It’s really very simple. We have no freedom if we have no choice.” The response: Not every action that a person wants to do or substance that he wants to ingest is covered by freedom under our system of laws. A person cannot go into a theater and yell “fire” and rely on the 1st Amendment freedom of speech to do so. With freedom comes responsibility. Fundamental liberty is not freedom to do whatever one wants without regard to the destructiveness of that behavior. What about “child pornography”. Surely no one would argue that this is a protected free speech freedom. Government’s main role is to protect citizens and in order to do that certain acts have to be prevented. The public good requires the limitation on what people “want to do”. If it is detrimental to the public the government has a legitimate role to play to prevent that act. There are no Constitutional limitations on the federal government restricting harmful chemicals and exercising its role in determining if a drug is safe and effective and allowed for public consumption.

53. Do we want to be a drug mecca? Instead of tracking toward a third-world corrupt country designation, Vermont could aspire to become a well-respected state, for having good laws and a healthy population. http://www.alternet.org/environment/thinking-about-ethical-travel-destination-beaten-path-here-are-top-10-places-visit-now

Narratives that might be of help for an overall evaluation of the legislation.

  1. The Folly of the new Drug Stores! Some general points on the folly of setting up stores to sell marijuana to collect 25% on the sales so they can prevent people from using it. Now really, does that make any sense? The same silliness exists for the rest of the spending smokescreen. Sell it to them to use and with the tax money help treat them! Boy that is logical. For sure it will increase the number of people using from the stores and the already existing illegal market and we will get more drugged driving so we will use the money we get from taxes on selling what is increasing the drugged driving to increase law enforcement to prevent drugged driving. How can this make any sense to a thinking person? Not only that, the 25% tax and high overhead of the stores will insure that current users stay with the illegal providers. So again the silliness of saying this law will help eliminate the black market. It won’t! The black market will welcome the entry of the stores into the Vermont market. What the legislators won’t acknowledge is that they are really counting on the drug tourists who will be the ones to drop the dollars that will generate the tax revenue. The tax will only work when these folks come from Boston, New York and Montreal and they know it. And you can be sure when the details of how the money will be spent is worked out, it will be a far cry from the promotional formula they are touting now. One thing you can be certain is the money will be used to grow the bureaucracy.
  2. Senator Benning is a sponsor of the bill. This is a critique of an opinion piece that Senator Benning did for vtdigger. It is offered here for the instructive points made. “Senator Benning: I have heard personally and also the recorded version of your story about what led you on this crusade to legalize marijuana and set up stores to sell it. I heard nothing in those conversations that directly addressed the medical, law enforcement and educational misgivings and facts about the damage that will be done by this legislation except in generalities. Nothing specific that takes the position of the medical organizations and refutes them factually. I have not seen any information from you that negate the obvious result of this bill that will create more availability, more people consuming whether they are local or drug tourists and thus more driving under the influence and resulting in increased death and injury on the highways. Nothing specific at all! You should be addressing this matter factually.

Your words here make it sound as if this were a simple legalization of small amounts of marijuana. It is not. The establishment of stores where estimates are that up to $300,000,000 in sales will be generated is no small thing. If we reach that sales level that will have far outdone the sales you say are occurring illegally now on the street and street sales will continue as well. You have not adequately addressed why you would expect current users to forsake where they get their marijuana now to buy in a highly regulated, expensive overhead store whose product has a 25% tax added to it. To say that folks will want and buy from the stores because they will get a more predictable safer product is unrealistic. So many folks who imbibe do not care about the source. In fact imbibers partake of other substances from glue, allergy medicines, and cough syrups to food extracts in order to get high. The drug tourists, with a lot of money to spend will surely go to the fancy, trendy stores but you are deceiving yourself if you believe your legislation will undermine the black market and do away with illegal sellers. In fact the kind of competition that the stores will offer will most likely be welcome by those dealers who can see that they can easily compete.

Where public safety is at stake, I am surprised you would be moved by a poll that supposedly shows the public supports legalization. Polls can say anything and can be wrong. I doubt if most who participated in those polls understand that your legislation is setting up a marketing system that will create stores most likely larger and generating more sales than local pharmacies. The visual on this is obscene in the minds of all I have spoken to and the result is clear that Vermont will become a drug mecca and legitimate business could well be deterred from coming here all at the same time that our young people are leaving because of the loss of opportunity.

Just because many will come on and give you a thumbs up also does not mean there is acceptance by the general community. Folks I know are seriously concerned about their safety and the environment they are raising their children. They are busy living their lives and trying to make a living instead of coming on websites to promote and give thumbs ups to those who are doing their bidding to legalize a drug that is still illegal under federal law. Your role as a legislator is to do no harm to the public but in fact to provide laws that protect and enable people to go about living is a safe and productive manner. This law benefits a certain number of people but not all citizens and I believe you are sworn to represent us all. Strange also that you, as a lawyer, would choose to ignore the federal law because you disagree with it! This bodes poorly for our constitutional system of governance.

You give lip service that minors not consume marijuana. But even the Commissioner of Public Safety, who seems obviously conflicted in the need to respond to the Governor or to his own law enforcement staff who oppose this bill has serious thoughts about what message this bill is sending to children. The Vermont Department of Health in its 83 page report sets forth many reasons why not to pass this bill but I hear nothing directly from you that refutes the points made in that report. The big concern for them and educators, physicians and mothers and fathers, is the increased availability and the message this is sending. No amount of education is going to counter the impression by youth that if it is good enough for mom and dad that it’s good enough for me.

You say “The “legalization” part is actually quite limited and doesn’t take place until January of 2018” It is not “quite limited”. If you want to limit it then take out the provision for stores being created to bring in up to $75,000,000 in revenue according to the Rand Study. In the final analysis you do want the revenue to allow you to further experiment in other areas. To say this money will help fight opiates is folly. It will increase the bureaucracy and we all know how poorly government does in solving any problem. When the dollar signs fade away the costs to fix what is broken by this law will put more, not less burden on the taxpayer.

Finally Senator, you know full well that what you call “quite limited” in describing the legislation is likely to progress further as the bill makes its way through the house. The other opinion piece in today’s vtdigger is evidence of this. Are you willing to say that any further changes to this bill to expand it beyond “limited” will be opposed by you?

You stated your reason for pursuing this was “personal”. That really is not a good reason to do it and your defense of the legislation in the light of medical facts, law enforcement facts and educational facts that all show how bad this will be for children in citizens, is quite lacking.

Your final words are that “S.241 recognizes public reality and legitimate concerns. Let’s dispel fear and support it.” Reality about its use and desire by some “yes” but you do not address legitimate concerns of we the people. You are only addressing the concerns of a special interest group and like you said “to you its personal”.

3. How much sense does this bill really make when you stop to think about it all? Marijuana stores in Vermont to sell it to raise revenue by taxing it so we can treat and keep people from using it and beefing up law enforcement to deal with the problems it brings. Vermont’s gone wacky again and it will cost lives!

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 Posted by at 14:31

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