Representing Chittenden 7-4 District in the VT House
May 14, 2017
I have long supported medical marijuana. And ever since Colorado and Washington initiated the reality of states legalizing “recreational” marijuana, I have been opposed to anything even vaguely similar here in Vermont. Yet there I was, within this past week, voting “yes” on both the expansion of medical marijuana and the legalization of a small amount of “recreational” marijuana. It is the latter vote which I believe calls for explanation.
The bill was S.22. The Senate took House bill H.170, added a commission to it, tacked all that to another bill… and voila, it became the version of S.22 as ultimately passed. The text of S.22 can be found on the legislative web site, starting on page 2437 of the May 10 House Journal.
H.170 came from the House Judiciary Committee as part of its multi-pronged criminal justice reform effort this session. It was further vetted in the House Human Services Committee. Here are the salient points:
But, all that said, how could I support the bill with those plants included? The committee’s rationale ultimately made sense to me: If we “decriminalize” possession of a small amount of marijuana, it is illogical to not make a small amount available legally, a small amount the quality of which is “known” as opposed to any of this “product” obtained “on the street.”
But plants grow; they produce. Well, cultivation must be in an enclosure screened from public view and secured against unauthorized access. “Product” harvested beyond the one-ounce possession limit must be stored in an indoor facility on the property where it is cultivated and, again, precautions taken to prevent unauthorized access.
So, what about the commission, the Marijuana Regulatory Commission, which was as controversial as the allowance of the one-ounce possession and the plants. It is supposed to “develop legislation that establishes a comprehensive regulatory and revenue system for an adult-use marijuana market.” I automatically opposed that, until I read “… that, when compared to the current illegal marijuana market, increases public safety and reduces harm to public health.” Further, the commission membership includes views both pro and con. And further yet, the commission can develop all the legislation it wants. It still has to make it through both the House and the Senate… and a tax and regulate program is one very heavy, if not impossible, lift in the House.
Bottom line, at this point I need to get beyond my usual “Marijuana? No!” Colorado, Washington, Washington D.C., Massachusetts, Maine, Canada in the offing, even New Hampshire about to decriminalize three-quarters of an ounce… we are not an island and we gain nothing by pretending that anyone, of any age, cannot obtain “product” of questionable quality right now off the black market.
This has not been an easy shift for me. I have come, however, to believe that it is not inappropriate. If you would like to talk about this or any other legislative issue, please do not be hesitant. Contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at 802-862-7404, at my home at 232 Patchen Road, on the street, or at Trader Duke’s from 8:30 to 9:30 on Saturday mornings.