Pro-Legalization Representatives Scramble to Find Votes
Montpelier (May 2) – “They are stalling until they have enough votes to pass,” lobbyist Kevin Ellis explains. It’s 8:00 pm in the Statehouse in Montpelier and marijuana legalization has yet to be debated. Rumors have been swirling in the building all day about when the compromise on legalization, H.858, would reach the House floor. The sun has set and still no word.
Ellis believes they are putting off the topic until they can secure enough votes to pass the measure.
Montpelier (Apr 6) – “If I were to write these laws from scratch, would I write them the way the are? Definitely not,” Michelle Childs, from the Office of Legislative Council, said before the House Judiciary Committee. While discussing the marijuana legalization bill, S.241, the committee reviewed the current decriminalization laws in place – and some representatives became very concerned. In 2013, the Vermont legislature decriminalized possession of an ounce or less of marijuana. This means that possession of marijuana of an ounce or less would result in a civil – not criminal – charge.
Montpelier (Mar 30) – “The idea of legalization is different in concept than when it’s happening down the street from you,” Candace Block from the Association of Washington Cities testified before a joint meeting of the House Judiciary Committee and the House Government Operations Committee. She testified via phone from Washington to discuss the effects legalization has had on her state.
Block reminded the committees that marijuana possession became legal in Washington state in November 2011, but retail facilities have only been around since July 2014 – this is still new for them as well. She emphasized that Washington has an unregulated medical marijuana market, which sometimes leads to competition between recreational businesses and medicinal.
Block cited research that shows a slight uptick in impaired driving and an increase in calls to the Poison Control Hotline.
Montpelier VT (Mar 24) – “I have seen literally thousands of examples of the effects of marijuana. It does not fit the narrative that is being spun to you,” Michael Schirling, the Public Safety Consultant and retired Burlington Chief of Police testified in front of the House Judiciary Committee. He expressed frustration with how marijuana is being framed in this conversation. The marijuana legalization bill, S.241, recently passed in the Senate and is now before the House Judiciary Committee – where it is raising serious concerns about public and highway safety. Schirling explained to the committee that he would advise to hold off on legalization until the federal government rescheduled marijuana so more reliable and extensive research would be available.
Burlington (Mar 3) – Last year, the Vermont legislature repealed the tax exempt status that fraternity and sorority houses have enjoyed since 1906. Soon, if the repeal takes effect as planned in 2017, UVM Greeks will be taxed out of existence.
The community is not taking this lightly. Alumni, current collegiate chapter presidents, Vermont citizens, students, and representative Barbara Rachelson (D) gathered Thursday night to fight for their cause. Throughout the night, the positive impacts the Greek community has on UVM and Vermont – as well as the detrimental effects of the repeal – were highlighted.
Essex Junction (Mar 1) – “I want to thank all of you for the love and the friendship that you have given our family. You have sustained me,” Sanders heartwarmingly addressed a massive crowd of Vermont supporters on Super Tuesday.
The crowd had been standing for a few hours waiting for Sanders in the Champlain Valley Expo center in Essex Junction, but the energy levels never wavered. Supporters enjoyed live entertainment from local artists and singer-songwriter Ben Folds. Jerry Greenfield, cofounder of Ben & Jerry’s, opened the evening with energy, passion, humor, and pure excitement.
Burlington (Feb 22) – Kevin Ellis from Ellis-Mills Public Affairs and Bill Lofy, former chief of staff of Governor Shumlin argued their sides of the marijuana debate in front of a class of UVM students Monday morning. Ellis, who is on the anti-legalization side of the discussion, urged students to view legal, regulated, recreational marijuana as a detriment to the “the very fabric of society.” He compared regulating marijuana to casinos, adding, “Casinos are bad. They do bad things and they attract bad people. And that’s what a marijuana market will do to Vermont.”
Bill Lofy, who is a part of the VT Cannabis Collaborative, stressed the economic potential marijuana legalization has in Vermont. He emphasized that with the current black market, you cannot be sure that the cannabis you’re consuming is safe, pure, and unlaced.
Damien Leonard proposes amendments to change existing drug testing laws before the Senate Committee of Economic Development, Housing, and General Affairs
Montpelier (Feb 10) – The Senate Committee of Economic Development, Housing, and General Affairs heard more testimony this week that raised more concerns regarding workplace safety and current drug testing laws in Vermont. “This bill is not a fair treatment of the business community,” John Connor, from Connor Contracting said before the committee Wednesday morning.
Connor and many other business owners are concerned about the lack of ability to test impairment levels due to cannabis. “I think it’s ridiculous that this bill is this far along without properly vetting these issues,” Connor stressed. The discussion about workplace safety has raised awareness about Vermont’s current drug testing laws – and how much they differ from every other state.
The Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing, and General Affairs hear testimony regarding marijuana legalization. Montpelier (Feb 3) – “We need to drill down on liability,” Dave Molloy from Bellavance Trucking Co. urged the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing, and General Affairs Wednesday morning. Molloy stressed his concern over employer liability and the lack of an effective test for monitoring THC impairment levels.
Molloy, and many other business owners, are concerned about the effects on workplace saftey the legalization of marijuana might have.
VT Senate Judiciary Committee Meets to Discuss Act Relating to Possession and Cultivation of Cannabis
Montpelier (Jan 27): “If we were our own country, we wouldn’t have this problem,” Sen. Sears (D-Bennington) jests during the Senate Judiciary Committee’s mark-up of S.241 – an act relating to the possession and cultivation of cannabis, and the regulation of commercial cannabis establishments. There are still several days of mark-up and review for this bill, but important details were clarified this morning in the state capitol. Under this bill, landlords, employers, and rented rooms (hotels), would still be able to prohibit cannabis use. The guidelines for smoking in public places would mimic the laws set in place for tobacco use. “Let’s rent a hotel room, smoke in it and see what happens, “Sen. Sears jokes after Sen. White (D- Windham) remarks that cannabis smoke causes less damage to interior walls than tobacco smoke.