April 1, 2016

Marijuana Gets Mixed Reviews at Public Hearing

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Judiciary and Government Operations Committees hear public testimony on legalization.

Judiciary and Government Operations Committees hear public testimony on legalization.

Montpelier (March 31) – Comments at Thursday evening’s public hearing related to bill S. 241 to legalize marijuana ranged from strongly supportive to adamantly opposed, with plenty in between.

The House Committees on Judiciary and on Government Operations heard testimony from the public, alternating between pro and anti legalization viewpoints.

The arguments presented were not all straightforward. Some individuals demonstrated support of legalization in general, but were opposed to the provisions laid out in the current bill.

Many argued that it was a mistake to exclude provisions for home grown marijuana in the bill.

Amos Newton, a resident of Jamaica, VT, said the bill “should legalize to support small business,” which the current bill would not accomplish. Newton suggested, “commercially grown pot does not allow for the quality and diversity of product that Vermont is famous for.”

Newton was not the only one to express concerns for the corporate industry control that will be established through the current legalization bill.

Many who opposed the bill cited risks to the health and safety of Vermonters, particularly youth.

A veteran drug counselor from Vermont, Sarah Mason, suggested that the negative effects of prolonged marijuana use are subtler than other drugs. Among these less obvious effects, Mason mentioned marijuana playing a role in “exacerbating the effects of depression and anxiety,” and the possibility that the drug can increase an individuals susceptibility to opiates.

She urged that the committees vote no, and wait for more conclusive research regarding the health impacts of marijuana.

Students from Montpelier high school presented results of a survey conducted at the school, which indicated that legalization would not have any significant impact on accessibility or use rates among students, with 66% of eleventh grade students reporting to already use marijuana.

A sentiment shared by many testifying on Thursday was that marijuana use is already widespread in the state, and legalization would help to increase public safety and benefit state revenues.

The House Committee on Judiciary is expected to vote on the bill next week.

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