By an overwhelming margin — 121 to 28 — representatives in the Vermont State House rejected a bill Tuesday that would have legalized the retail sale of marijuana for recreational use by those 21 years old and older.
At the same time, the representatives refused to take a step toward deconstructing the draconian drug laws that have been in place for going on four decades by decriminalizing marijuana possession. But to rub salt in the wounds of those who hoped to see pot legalized this year, the representatives also refused to allow the issue to go to the voters as a referendum during the upcoming general election. To us, that is nothing more than a kick in the shins to informed Vermonters who should be given the right to weigh in on this measure.
You think it couldn't get much more worse? Well, some legislators who opposed legalization should be entered into the annals of hypocrisy, because soon after the vote they were spotted — and photographed — pouring a few stiff drinks and slugging them down while in the State House; yes, while in the State House.
We understand that alcohol is legal, and we believe it should be an adult's decision to partake of any mind-altering substance he or she prefers. But, as has been stated time and time again, alcohol alone causes more health problems, wrecks more families and keeps more police officers busy than all the illegal drugs combined.
So if you are tipping a drink in celebration of shooting down the wishes of the majority in Vermont, you should be ashamed of yourself. And your constituents should consider who will be on the ballot in November and remember who was holding a whiskey glass and popping the top off of champagne bottles on Tuesday.
Yes, we would be the first to admit the legislation proposed by the Senate was less than ideal, especially its initial failure to consider folks who like to grow a little weed at home for their own consumption. And there is also a genuine concern that marijuana not fall victim to the commercialization that surrounds alcohol and tobacco. But those issues would be relatively easy to deal with as legislation could be amended going forward. Instead, the bill, which was less than perfect, fell victim to some imagined perfection that is, realistically, unobtainable.
But really, that is what some legislators and prohibitionists would have you believe. The decision to vote against the bill really has nothing to do with finding the right amount of balance; it has more to do with the knee-jerk fear that was inculcated in the run-up and implementation of this horrid war on drugs. Those who continue the fight against legalization have been rolling out the same old tired tropes since "Reefer Madness" was released 80 years ago.
While there is some scientific consensus that some users can become addicted to the habit and ritual of smoking pot, other falsehoods such as it's as dangerous as heroin or it's a gateway drug have been thoroughly debunked. In fact, in recent years it's been proven that marijuana can actually help people kick the heroin habit. And while cigarettes kill more than 500,000 Americans a year, marijuana has never, ever been proven to cause cancer, emphysema, COPD or heart disease. Again, in fact, numerous studies have shown that pot can actually be used to attack those maladies, which is one of the reasons why many states have legalized it for medicinal purposes.
The Carrie Nations with their axes also go out of their way to mention how marijuana makes people lazy and shiftless and encourages them to commit criminal behaviors. Well, wrong and wrong and the only reason they are considered criminals is because it has been demonized for the purpose of keeping the black man down (Google Nixon and War on Drugs) and to keep the prison/industrial complex well lubricated with payola and despair.
Finally, all the gnashing of teeth and the beating of breasts from those who urge us "to think about the children." Well, talk to any school-age child and they will tell you weed is much easier to get than regulated drugs such as tobacco and alcohol. If you are really concerned about the kids, you would legalize its use for adults and tightly regulate its sale. So, we are hoping the members of the Legislature put down their drink glasses and have a change of heart soon, or at least allow Vermonters to make the decision for themselves via a referendum.