Richard Davis: A new era

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Vermont is poised to join a few other states and legalize the recreational use of marijuana. It has been a slow and winding road and no one knows that better than Windham County Senator Jeanette White. She has championed the cause for a number of years and is now able to claim partial victory after a bill passed the Vermont Senate recently.

It has not been an easy sell to get legislators to agree to legalizing recreational marijuana. The legalization of medical marijuana a few years ago provided a lot of education and public discussion and that created some of the foundation necessary to build upon.

Having any issue make it through the legislative process requires a great deal of compromise and White is no stranger to shepherding legislation. She understood where to make compromises and, although she did not get everything she wanted, she did not make the perfect be the enemy of the good. In other words, she was willing to compromise just enough to get the support she needed to move a bill on to the House.

That bill does not allow for a home grown option and it treats the sale and use of marijuana by minors almost the same way that alcohol consumption by minors is treated. Our criminal justice system spends a lot of time and money prosecuting and jailing people who use marijuana, although law enforcement of individual users seems to have become a bit lax over the years.

Societal discussion of marijuana and the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana by a number of states have slowly changed attitudes. The public has learned about the many uses of the drug for the alleviation of symptoms of people who suffer from chronic pain, multiple sclerosis and a host of other maladies. There has even been some scientific evidence that marijuana can be of use in children who suffer from intractable seizure disorders.

Many scientists believe the drug is detrimental to developing brains and that is why the age limit for use has been set. No drug is completely safe but marijuana, when compared to the more popular drug alcohol, is tame. Alcohol is poison to the body and it can kill in a single bout of abuse. Alcohol has the potential to slowly kill the liver and brain with years of abuse.

So far, the worst that marijuana can do according to the very few studies that have been done, is to impair memory with chronic use and to cause lung damage with regular smoking. The smoking piece can be eliminated because marijuana can easily be put into almost any type of food. Brownies and other pastries have been popularized over the years but one can even put it into butter and any other food that requires oil for preparation. Meat balls are even fair game.

Using too much of anything over time will cause problems and marijuana is no exception. People with addictive personalities will use a variety of substances and marijuana will often be on the list. But there are many occasional users and people who enjoy the psychotropic benefits of marijuana in the same way someone else might enjoy a cocktail at the end of the day.

Those social users of marijuana may soon be able to purchase the drug legally in Vermont and use it in their own homes without fear of breaking the law. It will be a major societal change and it is already happening slowly around the country.

Then there is the income generating potential for the state of Vermont. While a new law would control growth and distribution, it would also mean that the supply would be controlled. There will be some degree of tax boost to the state but I doubt it will provide a major source of revenue in the short run.

In the future, as societal attitudes liberalize, one of the changes that will occur will be to allow anyone to be able to grow pot. In particular, Vermont's agriculture industry could see a major economic boost. Farmers could have the option of adding a financially lucrative crop to their fields and that could signal the start of a new agricultural era in Vermont.

Richard Davis is a registered nurse. He writes from Guilford and welcomes comments at rbdav@comcast.net.


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