By Keith Mansur
Oregon Cannabis Connection
May 24, 2017—The myopic Vermont governor actually blocked the United States first legalization law passed by a state legislature. In a stunning example of how disengaged he is with the citizens he represents, Phil Scott vetoed the historic bill.
“As you might imagine, I have received a great deal of advice on this issue, and have taken the time to fully understand what this legislation proposes to do,” Scott said in a press conference on Wednesday. “I carefully weighed the advantages and disadvantages of this proposal in order to arrive at my decision.”
What was the advice he got? No one can be certain, but he apparently thinks people will suddenly start using marijuana all over the Vermont. He seems to believe a significant increase in stoned driving will occur, and thousands of people will become cannabis users to the detriment of their own health and possibly the safety of others. He proposes that a massive effort by public health, police, and drug treatment facilities will be the only way to prevent these detrimental impacts. He said at the press conference:
“I feel it is crucial that key questions and concerns involving public safety and health are addressed before moving forward. We must get this right. Let the science inform any policy around this decision, learn from the experience of other states, and take whatever time is required to do so.”
“We should know how we will measure and detect impairment on our highways, fund and implement additional substance abuse prevention education, keep our children safe and penalize those who do not and measure how legalization impacts the mental health and substance abuse issues our communities are already facing.”
“From my vantage point, S-22 does not yet adequately address these questions, therefore I am returning this bill to the legislature. I am, however, offering a path forward that takes a much more thorough look at what public health, safety, and education policies are needed before Vermont moves toward a regulatory and revenue system for an adult-use marijuana market.”
He also took issue with the composition of the proposed marijuana regulatory commission in the law. He believes there should be representatives from the Department of Public Safety, the Department of Health, the Department of Taxes, and the substance abuse and treatment community.
He believes the law moves too fast, even though it only allows possession and personal cultivation and does not create a production and distribution system as other states have done. He wants a full year for the commission to develop further plans for a retail system.
Astonishingly, he does not want to “weaken” penalties for distribution to minors and at the same time stiffen penalties for cannabis DUII and adults using cannabis around minors. He seems to think the penalty for smoking marijuana with a minor in the car should be more severe than if a person had an open container of alcohol with a child in the vehicle. He repeatedly stretches facts and science to make conclusions that support his view:
“We must acknowledge that marijuana is not alcohol and it is not tobacco. How we protect children from the new classification of this substance is incredibly important. This is not just a concern about impaired driving, according to the best science available and our own department of health, second-hand marijuana smoke can negatively impact a child’s brain development. Therefore, if an adult is smoking marijuana in a car with a child, in my view, that should include a more severe punishment.”
No significant science supports his positions, however, and most of the current science indicates his fears are completely unfounded. NORML does a great job of keeping up with the science, including one study on how cannabis states have FEWER driving fatalities, or this study which shows that dispensaries are not selling cannabis to youth, or this study which shows legal marijuana states have fewer residents with opioid dependence.
The “best science available” to him was is obviously not the same science I have been reporting on for years and that everyone in America has access to. Maybe he should expand on the science he currently has available. And, just maybe he should pull his head out of his…well, I will let you determine where his head is currently.
Watch his news conference below:
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