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2017 Vermont State Legislature Cannabis Favorability Map

In mid-June, all registered candidates for Vermont State Senate were emailed the same list of questions about cannabis (marijuana) policy. Additional follow-up emails will be sent to all candidates, whose responses are listed below in full. Those names with * are incumbent candidates, all others are new candidates (for this state Senate race, even if they have held office before).

Survey Questions:

  1. Do you presently have a firm position on cannabis legislation in Vermont?
  2. Do you support Vermonters right to grow their own cannabis at home, or do you think cannabis should be sold only in a regulated environment, such as a dispensary or retail outlet?
  3. What are your greatest concerns with reforming Vermont cannabis laws?
  4. What are the potential benefits for reforming Vermont’s cannabis laws and how would you allocate cannabis-derived tax revenues?
  5. Please share any additional details about your position on cannabis issues and feel free to elaborate on your approach.

CANDIDATE RESPONSES – VERMONT STATE SENATE

Addison County:

*Claire Ayer, Addison, Democratic
Peter Briggs, Addison, Republican
*Christopher Bray, New Haven, Democratic
Lynn Dike, Bristol, Republican


Bennington County:

*Dick Sears, Bennington, Democratic
*Brian Campion, Bennington, Democratic


Caledonia County:

*Joe Benning, Lyndon, Republican

  • Do you presently have a firm position on cannabis legislation in Vermont?
    • I do.  It should be legalized for those 21 and over.
  • Do you support Vermonters right to grow their own cannabis at home, or do you think cannabis should be sold only in a regulated environment, such as a dispensary or retail outlet?
    • I think it should be a combination of both.
  • What are your greatest concerns with reforming Vermont cannabis laws?
    • Preventing access by kids and discouraging a black market.
  • What are the potential benefits for reforming Vermont’s cannabis laws and how would you allocate cannabis-derived tax revenues?
    • Potential benefits: preventing access by kids and discouraging a black market.  Taxes should be divided between education, prevention and enforcement.
  • Please share any additional details about your position on cannabis issues and feel free to elaborate on your approach.
    • I was cosponsor of the most recent bill attempting to legalize.  That pretty much says it all.

*Jane Kitchel, Danville, Democratic


Chittenden/Grand Isle County:

*Tim Ashe, Burlington, Democratic
*Phil Baruth, Burlington, Democratic
Nick Cook, Jericho, Democratic
Dawn Ellis, Burlington, Democratic
John Gifford, Milton, Republican
Faisal Gill, Winooski, Democratic
Debbie Ingram, Williston, Democratic

  • Do you presently have a firm position on cannabis legislation in Vermont
    • I do not have a firm position and am open to learning more. I see the wisdom of the concept of legalizing mood-altering substances so they can be regulated, rather than prohibited and then involving law enforcement and essentially a black market. However, I do have various concerns over the effect that legalizing marijuana would have, and my primary concern is for our young people. See below for elaboration on this.
  • Do you support Vermonters right to grow their own cannabis at home, or do you think cannabis should be sold only in a regulated environment, such as a dispensary or retail outlet?
    • I do think if marijuana is legalized then we should certainly allow people to grow their own at home rather than force them to support a commercial industry that would cost them more.
  • What are your greatest concerns with reforming Vermont cannabis law?
    • My greatest concerns about young people are: Would legalization encourage young people who would not otherwise try a substance that is illegal to try it, to the detriment of their health and their energy levels? Would legalization create yet another situation in which low-income young people feel they have to keep up with their peers and spend money that could be better spent on other things? Would legal marijuana encourage young people to try other drugs that are stronger and more damaging?
  • What are the potential benefits for reforming Vermont’s cannabis laws and how would you allocate cannabis-derived tax revenues?
    • The potential benefits are that Vermonters would no longer be arrested and punished for engaging in a behavior that is basically no worse than smoking tobacco or drinking alcohol. Another benefit would be that the state could take in more revenue by taxing marijuana. I would like to see the funds allocated to drug education courses and substance abuse prevention and treatment.
  • Please share any additional details about your position on cannabis issues and feel free to elaborate on your approach.
    • There is also the concern of how to measure how much marijuana is too much to drive. There is the dilemma that law enforcement officers find themselves in when federal and state laws conflict, and they must ignore federal laws that they take oaths to uphold. There is the concern that dispensaries and retail outlets will be clustered in low-income areas and neighborhoods where people of color live because richer white people don’t want them in their neighborhoods. These are all concerns of mine. These are probably not insurmountable with properly worded legislation, but I do think they should be addressed. And I think it’s important to examine what has happened in Colorado and other places where marijuana is legal to learn from their experience and avoid any mistakes they have made.

*Virginia “Ginny” Lyons, Williston, Democratic
Dick Mazza, Colchester, Democratic
Louis Meyers, Williston, Democratic
Christopher Pearson, Burlington, Democratic

  • Do you presently have a firm position on cannabis legislation in Vermont?
    • I am a supporter and was the lead sponsor of H.277 – the legislation bill of 2015.
  • Do you support Vermonters right to grow their own cannabis at home, or do you think cannabis should be sold only in a regulated environment, such as a dispensary or retail outlet?
    • Yes, H.277 allowed for limited home grow. We are talking about a plant, so people should be able to grow their own.
  • What are your greatest concerns with reforming Vermont cannabis laws?
    • Timing. We are potentially falling behind as Massachusetts and Maine are likely advancing successful referendums in November 2016. Canada is coming on-line too so Vermont needs to get moving.
  • What are the potential benefits for reforming Vermont’s cannabis laws and how would you allocate cannabis-derived tax revenues?
    • The benefits are several: 1) Public policy should reflect reality and the fact is tens of thousands of Vermonters regularly use cannabis. 2) An effective regulatory system should make it harder for Vermont youth to access cannabis. 3) It will help our economy to bring a robust underground market above board. 4) In a legal environment we can bring discussions out of the shadows. Parents and children as well as policy makers need to have a frank conversation about the benefits and dangers of cannabis use.
    • I would direct the revenue to pay for the regulatory system and substance abuse treatments and prevention, especially for opiates.
  • Please share any additional details about your position on cannabis issues and feel free to elaborate on your approach.
    • If elected to the Senate I will continue to be an outspoken supporter of legalizing cannabis.

David Scherr, Burlington, Democratic
*Michael Sirotkin, South Burlington, Democratic


Essex – Orleans County:

Eric O. Collins, Richford, Republican
Marcia Horne, Newport City, Republican
Ron Horton, Jay, Democratic

  • Do you presently have a firm position on cannabis legislation in Vermont?
    • My position is that there are far too many of our citizens in jail for an issue that should have been put to bed years ago.  If we have legalized alcohol, a drug that tends to add aggression to an individual, then we should have legalized marijuana for adults 21 and older.  Government needs to get out of policing of safe alternatives to dangerous subscription drugs that are developed by corporations bent on keeping us under their influence.
  • Do you support Vermonters right to grow their own cannabis at home, or do you think cannabis should be sold only in a regulated environment, such as a dispensary or retail outlet?
    • We let people distill their own wine now so why not something else that is safe?  As long as this is for personal use I’m all for it.  I don’t think, at this point, that they should be allowed to freely sell their product since there would be no control over its quality or what it may contains.
  • What are your greatest concerns with reforming Vermont cannabis laws?
    • I would hope those who know the product and its’ affects would be involved in any regulations attached to the reform.  Far too often the people sitting in the position of making rules for something have no idea what they are talking about.  Let’s do it right the first time so it will be the only time.
  • What are the potential benefits for reforming Vermont’s cannabis laws and how would you allocate cannabis-derived tax revenues?
    • As is the case with any change it should be up to an informed committee to make these decisions.  Personally, I am in favor of using tax revenues to reduce the tax burdens of Vermonters paying far too much in property taxes.  If revenues prove to be great enough for them to be divided among treatment centers for addicts, schools and medicare for all type programs then that would be a great success in my eyes.  The other obvious benefit would be that of reducing the sentencing of those in possession.  We Must reduce this senseless incarceration process.
  • Please share any additional details about your position on cannabis issues and feel free to elaborate on your approach.
    • Like I have said many times, this should have been a non-issue years ago.  There are other issues that would fit in this category as well, but, we are discussing marijuana here.  I’ve had friends benefit with their pain level by using marijuana rather than addictive prescription drugs.  I’ve had friends who have grown marijuana illegally and have lived very productive and respectable lives.  And, contrary to some of the arguments, these friends never progressed further into the hard drug world.  I don’t believe for a second that this is a gateway drug.  Let’s clean up the image created by MJ critics, get kids out of jail for something they never should have been jailed for, and add this drug to the list of life saving drugs.  All this is coming from someone who has never even tried it.

*John S. Rodgers, Glover, Democratic
*Robert Starr, Troy, Democratic


Franklin County:

Carolyn Branagan, Georgia, Republican
*Dustin Degree, St. Albans City, Republican
Sara Kittell, Fairfield, Democratic
*Norm McAllister, Highgate, Republican
Denise Smith, St. Albans City, Democratic


Lamoille County:

Gerard “Jerry” Colby, Cambridge, Democratic
George Gay, Stowe, Democratic
*Richard Westman, Cambridge, Republican


Orange County:

*Mark MacDonald, Williamstown, Democratic
Stephen Webster, Randolph, Republican


Rutland County:

*Brian “BC” Collamore, Rutland Town, Republican
*Peg Flory, Pittsford, Republican
*Kevin Mullin, Rutland Town, Republican
Korrine Rodrigue, Rutland Town, Republican


Washington County:

Francis Brooks, Montpelier, Democratic
*Ann Cummings, Montpelier, Democratic
*William “Bill” Doyle, Montpelier, Democratic
Ashley Hill, Montpelier, Democratic
*Anthony Pollina, Middlesex, Democratic


Windham County:

*Becca Balint, Brattleboro, Democratic
*Jeanette White, Putney, Democratic


Windsor County: 

Alison Clarkson, Woodstock, Democratic

  • Do you presently have a firm position on cannabis legislation in Vermont?
    • Yes, I support thoughtful, Vermont scale legalization and regulation of marijuana.
  • Do you support Vermonters right to grow their own cannabis at home, or do you think cannabis should be sold only in a regulated environment, such as a dispensary or retail outlet?
    • Yes, voted to do this already…like to do both
  • What are your greatest concerns with reforming Vermont cannabis laws
    • That the black market won’t be eliminated.
  • What are the potential benefits for reforming Vermont’s cannabis laws and how would you allocate cannabis-derived tax revenues?
    • Safer marijuana for Vermonters, revenue for the state, eliminating stigma etc – probably focus revenues on prevention and education and treatment of opioid/heroin use.
  • Please share any additional details about your position on cannabis issues and feel free to elaborate on your approach.

Mark Donka, Hartford, Republican
Randy Gray, Springfield, Republican
Conor Kennedy, Hartland, Democratic

  • Do you presently have a firm position on cannabis legislation in Vermont?
    • Yes. The prohibition on marijuana has failed and we need to pass legislation that allows for a legalized, regulated market.
  • Do you support Vermonters right to grow their own cannabis at home, or do you think cannabis should be sold only in a regulated environment, such as a dispensary or retail outlet?
    • I believe that they are not mutually exclusive and both could be successful options for Vermont. I would want to make sure that both policy options were well thought out in order to make sure it fits with Vermont’s size and need.
  • What are your greatest concerns with reforming Vermont cannabis laws?
    • That we do not take our time in crafting smart policy. While I believe legalization should happen, I do not wish to rush through drafting a policy, just for the sake of legalizing marijuana.
  • What are the potential benefits for reforming Vermont’s cannabis laws and how would you allocate cannabis-derived tax revenues?
    • We will move away from antiquated drug position that has ruined people’s lives, it will hopefully allow for parents and children to have real conversations about marijuana use,and it will help erode away at the black market. I’m sure there will be many suggestions on how the revenue should be used, but we need to make sure the structure that would regulate a legal market is sufficiently funded, we educate the public on marijuana, and we put money towards helping Vermonters get treatment for substance abuse issues.

*Richard “Dick” McCormack, Bethel, Democratic
*Alice Nitka, Ludlow, Democratic
Jack Williams, Weathersfield, Republican