50+ Vermont Attorneys Urge Legislature to End Marijuana Prohibition: Letter to Be Presented to Lawmakers at First Hearing on H.170

Monica Donovan 8 Feb 2017

On Thursday at 9 a.m. ET, the House Judiciary Committee will hear testimony regarding the bipartisan proposal to eliminate penalties for personal marijuana possession and cultivation by adults 21 and older

MONTPELIER, Vt. — More than 50 Vermont attorneys have signed a letter urging the Legislature to “reform our state’s outdated and unjust policies towards cannabis by passing a bill to legalize and regulate its cultivation and sale for adult use in 2017.” The full letter and list of signers is available at http://bit.ly/2kjuV9B.

The letter will be presented to lawmakers at the House Judiciary Committee hearing on H. 170, which is scheduled for Thursday at 9 a.m. ET in Room 30 of the Vermont State House. H. 170 is a bipartisan proposal to eliminate penalties for possession and cultivation of personal amounts of marijuana by adults 21 and older. It also reduces penalties for possession and cultivation of larger amounts of marijuana.

The letter highlights the harms caused by prohibition laws, which it notes are unevenly enforced across racial and geographic lines:

“Vermont’s current cannabis policy — predominantly criminal prohibition, with civil penalties for minor possession — has created an inconsistent and confusing patchwork of enforcement that varies from county to county and town to town. … Regulating possession, cultivation and sale will help end these grossly unjust and potentially unconstitutional disparities.”

Middlebury attorney Dave Silberman highlighted the need for lawyers to address cannabis issues: “I believe that attorneys are uniquely situated — and indeed duty-bound — to speak out in the face of injustice,” he said in a statement to Heady Vermont. “H.170 begins to address this injustice by eliminating the need for any police involvement in personal cultivation and possession of small amounts of cannabis.”

The letter also discusses the recent passage of laws regulating marijuana for adult use in Massachusetts and Maine, as well as Canada’s plans to adopt a similar policy later this year:

“It is inevitable that entrepreneurs and businesses in neighboring jurisdictions will establish retail locations as close to Vermont as possible in order to cater to Vermont citizens who wish to be free from the dangers of the unregulated market, as well as the tourists drawn to our state. Rather than watching as cannabis policy is shaped by those around us who do not consider Vermonters concerns, the Legislature should seize the opportunity to design sensible drug policy that puts the public interest, social justice, and the rule of law at the forefront. …

“We cannot afford to wait and watch any longer as other jurisdictions reap the benefits of regulation while we continue to pay for the consequences of prohibition.”

Silberman noted that the bill is not a full solution for cannabis in Vermont. “H.170 does not … address the nearly $200 million per year illicit cannabis market existing in Vermont today,” he said. “I look forward to seeing additional legislation introduced to begin regulating and controlling this large underground economy, so that the broader public interest, and consumer safety in particular, are put before personal profit. In the meanwhile, I strongly support H.170 as an important first step in the process.”

WHAT: Vermont House Committee on Judiciary hearing on H. 170
WHEN: Thursday, February 9, 9 a.m. ET
WHERE: Vermont State House, Room 30, 115 State St., Montpelier
WHO: Vermont House Committee on Judiciary

  • Rep. Maxine Grad, Committee Chair and Co-sponsor of H. 170
  • Laura Subin, Director, Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana
  • Matt Simon, New England Political Director, Marijuana Policy Project

A full list of individuals invited to testify is included in the agenda.

The Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana is a broad coalition of citizens, organizations, and businesses working to end marijuana prohibition in Vermont and replace it with a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed. For more information, visit http://www.RegulateVermont.org.


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