Cannabis has been legal for adults in Vermont to grow and possess in limited quantities since July 1, 2018, but our work in Montpelier is far from complete. Since policymakers have not yet created a legal, regulated cannabis market, Vermonters continue to miss out on the business and job opportunities, tax revenue, consumer protections, and other benefits that are already being realized in other U.S. states and Canada.
Vermont’s legislative session starts tomorrow, January 9. Please email your newly elected state legislators today and urge them to support efforts to regulate cannabis in 2019!
Now that retail stores have opened in Massachusetts, it’s clear that the political winds in Montpelier are blowing strongly in the right direction. Unfortunately, Gov. Phil Scott still has not come around in support of cannabis regulation, and we know that the prohibitionists won’t go away without a fight. Please help us finish the job and make history by contributing to support our efforts!
After you email your state legislators and make a contribution to our campaign, please share this message with your family and friends and encourage them to join the Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana!
Study commission announces five listening sessions; call Gov. Scott today!
Possession and limited cultivation of cannabis has been legal for adults in Vermont since July 1, but sales in the state remain illicit, unregulated, and untaxed. Fortunately, the November election paved the way for the state to legalize and regulate retail sales in 2019. The Vermont Democratic Party officially endorsed legalization and regulation at its convention in August, and then it expanded its legislative majorities in November, increasing the likelihood that the House and Senate will agree to pass a cannabis regulation bill.
Unfortunately, Gov. Phil Scott, who was re-elected, has said that he thinks Vermont “isn’t ready” for retail cannabis. However, now that sales to adults have begun in Massachusetts and Canada, he may be convinced to evolve on the issue in 2019.
Gov. Scott needs to hear that regulating cannabis will create jobs, spur economic development, and produce tax revenue while taking money and power away from organized crime. If he isn’t willing to evolve, we may need to override his veto by earning support from two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate.
Additionally, the study commission has announced that it will be holding five listening sessions around the state. All sessions will begin at 6:30 p.m., and members of the public will be welcome to comment.
• Monday, November 26 in Rutland – Asa Bloomer Building, 2nd Floor, Room 266, 88 Merchants Row
• Wednesday, November 28 in Williston – Williston Central School Auditorium, 195 Central School Drive
• Monday, December 3 – Morse Center, Black Box Theatre, St. Johnsbury Academy, 1000 Main Street, St. Johnsbury, VT
• Wednesday, December 5 – Vermont Veteran’s Home, 325 North Street, Bennington, VT
• Thursday, December 6 – White River Junction National Guard Armory, 240 Main Street, White River Junction, VT
The walls of marijuana prohibition have crumbled all around New Hampshire. It is now legal for adults in all three neighboring states to grow and possess cannabis, and retail sales will soon become a reality in Massachusetts, Maine, and Canada.
Sadly, Gov. Chris Sununu continues to oppose legalization, in part because he continues to rely on terrible advice from New Hampshire’s so-called “drug czar,” former Manchester police chief David Mara. Last week, during an appearance at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Mara went on camera and offered an incredibly weak argument in defense of the status quo.
In other news, Senate Democratic leader Jeff Woodburn has launched an online petition calling for Sununu to support legalization. Sen. Woodburn announced last month that he intends to sponsor a bill to legalize, regulate, and tax cannabis in 2019.
If you are a New Hampshire resident, please call Gov. Sununu’s office today — tell him it’s time to stop listening to Chief Mara and start listening to the people of New Hampshire, who overwhelmingly support ending marijuana prohibition!
Marijuana prohibition is history in Canada. Last night, after months of negotiations, Parliament approved a bill to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana for adults. After one formality — Royal Assent — Canada will become the second nation to end marijuana prohibition and the first G7 country to do so.
Regulations vary by province, but most set age limits at 18 or 19 to match the legal age for alcohol and tobacco in Canada. Once the law takes effect, adults can possess up to 30 grams and grow up to four plants in their homes. Read more about this historic legislation.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is expected to move quickly to implement the new policy, and retail marijuana stores will soon be opening just north of our border.
And that is all the more reason for our Congress to enact the STATES Act, which would allow American states to decide their own marijuana laws without federal interference.
This is an important day to acknowledge. After decades of harm caused by marijuana prohibition laws, nations around the world are beginning to come to their senses. Canadians should be proud that their country is leading the way among major governments.
Canada moved another step closer to ending its prohibition of marijuana on Thursday when the Senate approved legislation to legalize and regulate marijuana for adult use. Bill C-45 will now head back to the House of Commons, which has already approved a previous version.
Once approved in the House, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is expected to move quickly to implement the legislation, with legal adult sales beginning as soon as August. Canada will be just the second country — and the first G7 nation — to legalize marijuana for adults at the national level. The first was Uruguay, where legislation was signed into law in December 2013 and a limited number of pharmacies began selling marijuana to adults in July 2017.
“Canada is demonstrating extraordinary leadership on marijuana policy,” said Mason Tvert, spokesperson for the Marijuana Policy Project. “It is setting an example not only for the U.S., where reform is already progressing at the federal level, but for countries around the world where there has been little to no debate on the subject.”
The Canadian legislation creates an overarching national regulatory framework and enables each province to establish its own system of licensing and regulating marijuana businesses. Adults will be allowed to possess up to 30 grams of marijuana, and all products will be sold in plain packaging with clearly marked labels. Home cultivation is allowed at the federal level, but it can be banned at the provincial level.
“This legislation will allow adults in Canada to start purchasing marijuana safely and legally from licensed businesses rather than tracking it down through illegal and potentially dangerous channels,” Tvert said. “Products will be tested, packaged, and labeled to ensure they are not contaminated and that consumers know what they’re getting. This newly regulated market will also create thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in tax revenue.”
Nine U.S. states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws making marijuana legal for adults 21 and older, and eight of those laws include systems for regulating the cultivation and sale of marijuana.
“Marijuana prohibition is a failed U.S. policy experiment that was replicated by countries around the world,” Tvert said. “It has caused far more problems than it has solved, and governments would be wise to follow Canada’s example by revisiting their marijuana policies and exploring alternatives.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has publicly supported ending prohibition in that country, is becoming something of a trailblazer when it comes to world leaders' positions on marijuana policy.
Washington Post reports:
Speaking Wednesday at an economic conference, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made one of the more buttoned-down, straight-edged arguments for marijuana legalization I've heard in recent years. It's worth quoting at length so I've done that below:
Look, our approach on legalizing marijuana is not about creating a boutique industry or bringing in tax revenue, it’s based on two very simple principles:
The first one is, young people have easier access to cannabis now, in Canada, than they do in just about any other countries in the world. [Of] 29 different countries studied by the U.N., Canada was number one in terms of underage access to marijuana. And whatever you might think or studies seen about cannabis being less harmful than alcohol or even cigarettes, the fact is it is bad for the developing brain and we need to make sure that it’s harder for underage Canadians to access marijuana. And that will happen under a controlled and regulated regime.
The other piece of it is there are billions upon billions of dollars flowing into the pockets of organized crime, street gangs and gun-runners, because of the illicit marijuana trade, and if we can get that out of the criminal elements and into a more regulated fashion we will reduce the amount of criminal activity that’s profiting from those, and that has offshoots into so many other criminal activities. So those are my focuses on that.
I have no doubt that Canadians and entrepreneurs will be tremendously innovative in finding ways to create positive economic benefits from the legalization and control of marijuana, but our focus is on protecting kids and protecting our streets.
Trudeau made these remarks in response to a conference participant who said that "Canada could be to cannabis as France is to wine." These enthusiastic predictions about the burgeoning marijuana industry — billions of dollars in revenue and taxes, thousands of jobs created -- should be familiar to anyone who's followed efforts to legalize pot here in the United States.
But Trudeau's argument for legalization is concerned less with creating benefits, and more with reducing harms. He starts from the same place that many legalization opponents start from — concern for the safety of children.
Continuing its support for sensible marijuana policies, The New York Times published an editorial Thursday asking Congress and the president to support a bill, introduced this week by Sen. Bernie Sanders, that would allow states to determine their own marijuana laws.
Support for making marijuana legal is increasing around the world, and that is a good thing. Earlier this week, the Mexican Supreme Court opened the door to legalizing the drug by giving four plaintiffs the right to grow cannabis for personal use.
In Canada, the newly sworn in prime minister, Justin Trudeau, has said he intends to change the law so people can use the drug recreationally; medicinal use is already legal in that country. And in the United States, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president, recently introduced a bill that would let states decide if they want to make the drug legal without worrying about violating federal law.
Laws banning the growing, distribution and possession of marijuana have caused tremendous damage to society, with billions spent on imprisoning people for violating pointlessly harsh laws. Yet research shows that marijuana is far less harmful than alcohol and tobacco, and can be used to treat medical conditions like chronic pain.
What’s needed now is responsible leadership from President Obama and Congress. They ought to seriously consider the kind of legislation Mr. Sanders has proposed.
On Monday, the Liberal Party in Canada won the national elections by wide margins, promising an impending shift in a number of policy areas, including marijuana. Newly elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised that the Canadian government would quickly begin the process of making marijuana legal for adults.
USA Today reports:
Trudeau promised that under his leadership Canada would create a system to tax, regulate and sell marijuana, along with stiff penalties for anyone giving pot to children or caught driving while stoned. The Liberal Party's cannabis legalization statement echoes the language used by many U.S. legalization advocates.
"Canada’s current system of marijuana prohibition does not work. It does not prevent young people from using marijuana and too many Canadians end up with criminal records for possessing small amounts of the drug," the party's position statement says. "To ensure that we keep marijuana out of the hands of children, and the profits out of the hands of criminals, we will legalize, regulate, and restrict access to marijuana."
This development could have a serious impact on marijuana policy in the United States.
On top of that, Mexico's Supreme Court will hold a hearing on October 28 to determine whether federal policies banning the possession and cultivation of marijuana are unconstitutional. Soon, the United States may be the only large nation on the North American continent to carry on the failed policies of marijuana prohibition.
I remember one of the clients I had on internship. He’d been drinking a fifth of bourbon a day for years. As you’d guess, his liver was a mess, and his thinking was clearly impaired. I couldn’t help but wonder how much better his health would have been (and how much money he could have saved) if he’d used cannabis instead. Of course, if I’d suggested that he switch to a safer drug, my supervisor would have berated me so loudly that everyone in the clinic would have had to cover his ears. There was little evidence to support this practice, no matter how much I thought it might help.
Although the idea remains controversial, substituting cannabis for drugs that cause more harm has a ton of advantages. It can certainly be cheaper, easier on the body, and less impairing. Harvard professor Lester Grinspoon mentioned this idea decades ago. I must get two e-mails a week from people who swear by the practice, but individual cases hardly count as compelling evidence. Fortunately, real people with real problems do everything that they can to tackle their troubles, no matter what the published research might say.
Years after I left internship, Dr. Amanda Reiman showed that many patrons of the Berkeley Patients’ Group used the plant to decrease or stop their consumption of other substances. The obvious next step would be a randomized clinical trial. Folks with drug problems would be randomly assigned to receive treatment as usual or to use cannabis exclusively instead. We’d follow up with them later and see how they were doing. Then we’d know if the treatment was helpful. It would take some money to give them the treatment they needed, but no matter how the experiment turned out, we’d know something very valuable.
If I’d called the National Institute of Health to pitch this idea, they’d probably have laughed their heads off. They’d have said that everybody knows that you can’t treat alcoholism with cannabis. I’d have mentioned Dr. Reiman’s study. They would have said that it was just one sample, and they were all from the same place, so no dice.
For this reason, we wanted to know if more medical cannabis patients made comparable claims. My esteemed colleagues contacted over 400 medical cannabis patients who were patrons of four different dispensaries in British Columbia. (I was just the data monkey on this project. Once New York state becomes more enlightened about medical cannabis, I’ll be more help.) Over 75% of these folks said that they used cannabis in place of some other drug. Replacing prescription drugs was the most common practice (68%), but many used the plant instead of alcohol (41%) and illicit drugs (36%). (Participants could report more than one drug for substitution, so the totals don’t equal 100%.)
We now have literally hundreds of people reporting that they can use cannabis instead of drugs that cause more harm. People who use alcohol or other drugs problematically often balk at treatments that demand complete abstinence. Who might show up for treatment if patients knew that they could use cannabis as part of the program? Maybe they’d run into trouble with the plant. But maybe they’d have healthy, productive, fun lives. They’d certainly have fewer problems if they laid off stimulants, alcohol, or opiates. So, how about it? What will it take to get a harm reduction program going where folks can use cannabis instead of hard drugs? I hate to think that the world might never know.
Last week, a federal judge in Seattle sentenced prominent Canadian marijuana activist Marc Emery to five years in U.S. prison, after Emery pleaded guilty in May to one count of conspiracy to manufacture marijuana. For years, Emery ran a marijuana seed-selling business, the profits from which he donated almost entirely to marijuana policy reform efforts. For that reason, his prosecution by U.S. law enforcement has been viewed by many as purely political, a charge officials have since denied.
But in 2005, then DEA-head Karen Tandy touted Emery’s arrest as “a significant blow” to the movement to end marijuana prohibition, saying “hundreds of thousands of dollars of Emery’s illicit profits are known to have been channeled to marijuana legalization groups active in the United States and Canada. Drug legalization lobbyists now have one less pot of money to rely on.” Such a statement should provide some insight into why U.S. officials have spent so many resources targeting (even extraditing) Emery over the years.
But of course that's old news, and not surprising. Instead, what really raised some eyebrows was this op-ed written earlier this month by John McKay, the former U.S. attorney who first indicted Emery in 2005. Writing in the Seattle Times, McKay now says that marijuana prohibition is a failure, is based on “false medical assumptions,” and that a new, science-based approach toward marijuana policy is desperately needed:
As Emery's prosecutor and a former federal law-enforcement official, however, I'm not afraid to say out loud what most of my former colleagues know is true: Our marijuana policy is dangerous and wrong and should be changed through the legislative process to better protect the public safety. [...] We should give serious consideration to heavy regulation and taxation of the marijuana industry.
How's that for evidence of the changing political atmosphere surrounding marijuana policy?