The realities of legalization
Editor of the Reformer:
In response to a recent letter from Stuart Savel and Rick Veitch ("Not in Vermont's best interest," Feb. 3).
Any effort to legalize marijuana in Vermont must comply with the Cole memo and the principles articulated in the Governor's State of the State Address. The Cole memo provides guidance to federal prosecutors concerning marijuana enforcement under the Controlled Substances Act.
The recent letter from Stuart Savel and Rick Veitch of Vermont Home Grown ignores the reality of the both the Cole memo and the five essential elements to a well-regulated framework for marijuana legalization articulated by the Governor. In drafting the legislation, the Judiciary Committee guided by those five principles and the Cole Memo: Keeping marijuana and other drugs out of the hands of youth; creating a regulated marijuana market that shifts demand away from the illegal market and the inherent public health and safety risks associated with the illegal market; using revenue from commercial marijuana sales to expand drug prevention and treatment programs; strengthening law enforcement's capacity to improve the response to impaired drivers under the influence of marijuana or other drugs; and prohibiting the commercial production and sale of marijuana oils, extracts, and infused products, including edible products, until other states which are currently permitting such products successfully develop consumer protections that are shown to prevent access by youth and potential misuse by adults.
After five public hearings, traveling nearly 500 miles in three days and hours of testimony in committee it is clear that Vermonters are split on the issue. Clearly even those who support regulation and legalization are not of one voice. There are many complexities and we have been fortunate to be able to turn to people in the State of Washington and Colorado for thoughts on what went well and what they might have done differently.
Both S.95 and S.241 had provisions that allowed for such an exception to a tightly regulated seed to sale construct. For me that creates an incongruity that I am unable to reconcile. As introduced S.95 and S.241 both create a regulated system, but allow a so called "gray market." S.241 does not have a plant limit, nor does it designate between mature and immature. The issue with the 10 x 10 is that because there is no limit, we don't really know how much that plot could produce. As introduced S. 241 clearly goes beyond the guidelines of the Cole Memo and would invite federal prosecution as would the ideas put forth in the letter from Stuart Savel and Rick Veitch. S.95 as introduced follows the law currently established for medical patients, two mature, seven immature plants.
Estimating the yield under each bill is difficult, law enforcement has indicated that you can easily get a pound of useable marijuana off a mature plant. Because these plants will produce significantly more than current civil limits we would need to change most of our criminal laws relating to the possession of marijuana.
After hearing from Public Safety Commissioner Flynn, folks in Washington (which does not allow home grown) and Colorado where at least some folks feel that allowing home grown has created additional problems and has made efforts to control the so called gray market impossible. That said it has been our intent to have a commission that would look at issues such as the sale of marijuana oils, extracts, and infused products, including edible products.
The Judiciary Committee added to the duties of the commission the following language; Consider the issue of personal cultivation of a small number of marijuana plants and whether Vermont could permit home grow in a manner that would not create diversion or enforcement issues that hinder efforts to divert the marijuana economy from the illegal to the regulated market
It is important to recognize that the Judiciary Committee has decided to take a responsible and cautious rather than reckless approach to legalization, rather than the approach favored by the Home Grown coalition. Personally I am offended by the cartelization of S. 241 as a "monopolist bill", nothing could be further from the truth.