Unhidden: In The Name Of Justice – An Interview With Laura Subin
A fierce advocate for criminal justice reform, Laura has been working since 2014 for comprehensive cannabis legalization in Vermont which creates both a vibrant, locally-based cannabis economy as well as abundant participation opportunities for those most heavily impacted by prohibition and the War On Drugs.
Find her at regulatevermont.org and pennywisefoundation.org.
Full transcript below.
Kathryn Blume: You have arrived at Unhidden, produced by Heady Vermont, we’re about bringing cannabis in all its forms out of the dark ages of prohibition, and into the light of a world which can definitely use some help from this awesome plant. I’m your host Kathryn Blume.
No story of cannabis legalization in Vermont would be complete without the name Laura Subin. An attorney with a huge background in criminal justice reform, for the last six years, Laura has been in the news, at public meetings, and on the ground at the Statehouse advocating for legislation which both supports a healthy, locally-oriented commercial cannabis economy and which rights the many wrongs of decades of prohibition.
A little technical note: I interviewed Laura at the Heady Vermont studio where there was a lot of activity, both of the 2 and 4-legged variety. So if you hear some bumps and knocks in the background, just chalk it up to what is technically known as a Dynamic Work Environment.
Laura Subin: I direct the Vermont Coalition To Regulate Marijuana, and we used the name marijuana back in 2014 because to track all the laws because at the time all the legislation on the books use the term marijuana. So, right there is an evolution. If we were naming the organization now, we’d use the word cannabis.
I signed on for a six month contract five years ago.
Kathryn Blume: Have you thought about rebranding?
Laura Subin: Well, no, because we are a political advocacy entity and once we finally accomplish our goal of full legalization in Vermont, we will not continue to exist, I would not expect. So, I think that’s one of the things. When we started in 2014, there weren’t all of these organizations. I don’t remember when Heady started, but…
Kathryn Blume: About three years ago.
Laura Subin: So, there wasn’t Heady, there wasn’t Vermont Cannabis Solutions. There were some other entities that are now no longer around. And so, as far as visibility for a while, the Vermont Coalition was probably the preeminent organizing vehicle in the state. And I signed on for a six month contract five years ago – is the background of that.
I think that at this point, my role has become somewhat more unique because I don’t have a horse in the race as far as cannabis industry once it does emerge. I just want to let it be legal for all of you to go do your thing.
But in the first year, the first organizing year which was 2014, I was traveling around the state going everywhere, going to Rotary Clubs, going to panel discussions, going to businesses, to meeting with government entities, all kinds of different stakeholders to just get the cannabis conversation going, and try to pave the way for the real systems advocacy that came in the years.
So at that time, I probably would have been one of the more visible people in the state. Now, I think that at this point, my role has become somewhat more unique because I don’t have a horse in the race as far as cannabis industry once it does emerge. I just want to let it be legal for all of you to go do your thing.
So, I think that really has changed. Because I’m not a farmer, I’m not a business owner. I’m not a platform for those businesses. And, so I think that the visibility has really changed at the Vermont Coalition. As it should. And so in the later years, it’s become more the insider baseball game in Montpelier.
I have a background in criminal justice reform.
Kathryn Blume: How did you get involved? How do they find you for that six month contract, what was your background?
Laura Subin: So, I am an attorney. I saw an ad. And I did consulting work, I’ve done consulting work with nonprofits for a long time. And so I’m familiar with contract work. Six month, part-time was right up my alley. And I have a background in criminal justice reform. So I worked in the anti-domestic violence field for almost 30 years and was the executive director of, it was then Women Helping Battered Women, in Burlington. Now it’s Steps To End Domestic Violence.
And so I had a lot of familiarity with the Vermont nonprofit scene and so I knew a lot of executive directors. And I had done a lot of systems advocacy around domestic violence issues, so I had some history in the statehouse, too. And so putting that package together, I bid on the contract and I got it.
The horrible things that have been done in the name of cannabis prohibition, and the war on drugs more broadly is really where my energy came from around wanting to be on the front lines of this issue.
Kathryn Blume: Did you have any personal background experience with cannabis or is this really a professional—
Laura Subin: Ask me no questions, I’ll tell you no lies. This was really… my whole focus is criminal justice reform. I absolutely think that people should be allowed to make the safer choice of consuming cannabis, rather than alcohol, or in addition to alcohol legally. And so, absolutely, as a citizen of the world, I care about that right.
But I have also, this for me… The horrible things that have been done in the name of cannabis prohibition, and the war on drugs more broadly is really where my energy came from around wanting to be on the front lines of this issue.
It’s been enormously frustrating in that the public sentiment in Vermont has been there all along. And so if we could have had a referendum, we would have had a successful referendum as early as 2014, 2015.
Kathryn Blume: So 2014 to now isn’t actually all that long for colossal systems change. Are you feeling like this has been successful? Are you feeling measured in your response to the whole thing?
Laura Subin: That is a great question. Well, achieving legalization was very exciting. And I do feel like that was successful to actually be the first to do it through a legislature. So, it’s good to look back and hear you say that it hasn’t been such a long time, because it feels like a long time. And it’s been enormously frustrating in that the public sentiment in Vermont has been there all along. And so if we could have had a referendum, we would have had a successful referendum as early as 2014, 2015. And so having to work through the legislature, and all that that brings, has been frustrating.
So, I would say it’s mixed. I feel like there have been some real missed opportunities and we could have been ahead of Massachusetts and Maine and we lost that chance of being the first with legal sales in New England. And so that feels like a disappointment. I think that there if the stars had aligned a little bit differently, that could have happened and would have been really good for Vermont.
I’m happy to throw a couple of key people under the bus, and their names are Mitzi Johnson and Phil Scott.
Kathryn Blume: Yeah. So without naming names and, you know, throwing people under the bus, how did that get held up?
Laura Subin: Well, I’m happy to throw a couple of key people under the bus, and their names are Mitzi Johnson and Phil Scott. And so I think that really, those were the primary obstacles. For a long time, the House just would not do the work of having the committee hearings. And so for years, they were able to complain, well, we haven’t had time to fully vet this. And the reason they didn’t have time is because they didn’t make time. And so it’s this legislative myth. And it was because Mitzi Johnson, the Speaker of the House has never liked this issue, and has never made it a priority and has, in my opinion stood in the way of progress on the issue. The Senate has passed it now, what, I think six times.
And then we switch. From when I started doing this work, we had governor Shumlin, who was a cannabis policy reform advocate. And then we switch to Phil Scott and who is obviously not a big supporter. And so there was another loss of momentum in that gubernatorial transition, which was frustrating.
I was appointed to the governor’s Marijuana Advisory Committee. I was appointed to the tax and regulate subcommittee. And that process was another series of frustrations. That commission was ridiculously weighted with prohibitionists and people in support of maintaining the status quo.
I was appointed to the governor’s Marijuana Advisory Committee. I was appointed to the tax and regulate subcommittee. And that process was another series of frustrations. That commission was ridiculously weighted with prohibitionists and people in support of maintaining the status quo.
And so, I think that of the commission itself and all of its subcommittees, I was one of maybe two or three people that were outspokenly in favor of policy reform. Everyone else wanted to stop cannabis policy reform.
So that, nonetheless – and there were some supporters. I would say, Kai Sampson, who was at the time the Commissioner of the Department of Tax, was open and took the message seriously that that commission was not supposed to be about whether to legalize, it was supposed to be about how. And I think on the tax and regulate subcommittee, we did try to do that, but the highway roadway safety and the health subcommittees were all about why we shouldn’t move forward.
Kathryn Blume: On a personal level, when you’re up against that much opposition, how do you get up every morning and put your game face on, and get in there when you’re in the minority? Or did you feel like you’re in the minority or was it like, well, I’m on this condition. I’m in the minority in this room, but I know that there’s all this vast population of people behind me outside the room who are going to support this? How did you think about it?
It’s harder to sit in the committee rooms in the legislature, where you sit around the table and listen to people who know a lot less about this policy make decisions that are going to impact people you care about.
Laura Subin: Yeah, I think that I was. I was proud to be the token pro-reform appointee on that commission. And so it made it for me easy to be emboldened to speak out and I felt like I had an obligation to a lot of people, those I knew and those I didn’t, to be at the table and keep coming forward with how the issues that they were discussing would impact small farms, and communities disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition. And so, that was a challenge that was easy for me to embrace in that room.
And, you know, ironically, in that setting, I actually had a seat at the table. It’s harder to sit in the committee rooms in the legislature, where you sit around the table and listen to people who know a lot less about this policy make decisions that are going to impact people you care about.
Kathryn Blume: Yeah, for sure. Now, in Vermont, we have the interesting social justice piece of not having the vast populations of communities of color that we see in other states who have been impacted by the war on drugs. But we certainly have people who have been negatively impacted, both people who are low income, people in communities of color, but it looks different here than it does in, say, New York or Chicago. So, can you lay out for people who might not know what that social justice component looks like in Vermont?
The ACLU in 2013 came out with a national study of black versus white arrest rates. They were looking at those two populations in particular, and Vermont was worse than the national average. And in the worst Vermont county which was Rutland County, black people were being arrested at 16 times the rate of white people, in spite of reporting the same use rates.
Laura Subin: Sure. Well, you sort already said a big piece of it. Blacks were being arrested at more than four times the rate of white people before decriminalization and so we do have a racial justice component even though it’s smaller numbers…
Kathryn Blume: Those are Vermont arrest rates?
Laura Subin: Vermont arrest rates more than four times which was worse than the national average as far as… The ACLU in 2013 came out with a national study of black versus white arrest rates. They were looking at those two populations in particular, and Vermont was worse than the national average. And in the worst Vermont county which was Rutland County, black people were being arrested at 16 times the rate of white people, in spite of reporting the same use rates. And so we did have a staggering racial justice problem, even though the numbers were small.
I think it’s too easy to say, “Well, there are such small numbers of communities of color that we don’t need to worry about that in the same way as other places do.” Because we have to remember that those communities were still radically disproportionately impacted in Vermont.
And then we have other data, related data, for example, there was a great study published called Driving While Black and Brown in Vermont that documented racial bias in police stops in the state that were horrifying. And so with before legalization, when the order of marijuana alone could be whether it was true or not, could be the justification for a stop and search that was also having racial justice implications.
And so I think it’s too easy to say, “Well, there are such small numbers of communities of color that we don’t need to worry about that in the same way as other places do.” Because we have to remember that those communities were still radically disproportionately impacted in Vermont. That said, the numbers are small and I do think that you need to look at economic justice as well.
And so for example, in the years of decriminalization about so that began in 2013 until legalization in early 2018. And there were upwards of 5000 citations, civil citations issued for marijuana violations.
When we look at social justice now, we need to look at racial justice, but we also need to look at economic justice.
The average fee associated with those violations were $250 to $500, something like that, which is a slap on the wrist if you’re affluent. It’s a drag, you know, it’s a bad day.
If you’re making minimum wage, it’s a week worth of your earnings and can have serious consequences. And similarly, the consequences for subsidized housing, for a low level amount of marijuana – either citation or arrest or that kind of things – or all the public federally funded subsidized programs are very serious. And so people who have more money aren’t impacted by that in the same way.
So when we look at social justice now, we need to look at racial justice, but we also need to look at economic justice. And communities where those demographics are the most prevalent, you can still do that in Vermont.
Even right now with the legalization scheme that we have, if you live in federally subsidized housing, there is no legalization for you at home. You can’t consume cannabis at home. Whereas if I own my house, I can, and that’s not fair.
Kathryn Blume: So part of what you’re saying is that when someone who’s low income would get dinged by the cops, it’s not just the cost of the citation, but it’s the subsequent impact on other programs that they might have access to that help keep them afloat, that they wouldn’t then have access to because of that?
Laura Subin: Exactly, all the count collateral consequences associated. And even right now with the legalization scheme that we have, if you live in federally subsidized housing, there is no legalization for you at home. You can’t consume cannabis at home. Whereas if I own my house, I can, and that’s not fair.
Kathryn Blume: I know that one significant aspect of dealing with that injustice is expungements. How are we doing on expungements and how are they rolling forward and is there a better way from Vermont to be doing it?
There are bills on the wall in both the House and the Senate that would make marijuana conviction expungement automatic.
Laura Subin: We’re doing pretty well. So, right now in Vermont, you’re eligible to have your conviction expunged for what is now legal. However, at this moment, you have to petition the court, and pay any surcharges you might have. Last year, the legislature did do away with expungement fees, there had been a $90 fee associated with expungements. That’s now gone away, which is great.
There are other fees imposed by the courts. So anytime you’ve had a conviction, you’re charged a surcharge, and I think that’s $140, something like that. And those are still on the books. And so there are still monetary barriers to expungement. But marijuana possession crimes that are now legal, you’re entitled to expungement. So that’s way better than if you weren’t.
There are bills on the wall in both the House and the Senate that would make marijuana conviction expungement automatic. So that you wouldn’t have to petition the court, the court would just do it and they’d be automatic and free for what is now legal. And I really hope that we don’t lose sight of those in this year’s session and let’s get it all done. And when we finally get tax and regulate done, let’s not forget about expungement.
I really think and hope that the advocacy community will continue to prioritize criminal justice reform as we work towards tax and regulate. Because to me that is the most important aspect of legalization and getting justice around this issue.
And what that would also do is decriminalize between one and two ounces, which is important criminal justice reform as well, because a lot of – it’s boring to explain why – but it does, it would create another decrim of the of the amount just above what’s legal, which I think is also progress. I would like to see a reduction in the penalties going across the board up from there, which had been in some legislative proposals and has not gotten airtime.
And in recent years, I really think and hope that the advocacy community will continue to prioritize criminal justice reform as we work towards tax and regulate. Because to me that is the most important aspect of legalization and getting justice around this issue.
Kathryn Blume: Yeah. What else in terms of criminal justice? What are people potentially not aware of?
I think maybe people don’t understand that the penalties when you get just beyond the legal possession limits and the legal cultivation limits, they didn’t change at all. So, you can get very quickly into felony territory if you’re just above the limit.
Laura Subin: Well, I think maybe people don’t understand that the penalties when you get just beyond the legal possession limits and the legal cultivation limits, they didn’t change at all. So, you can get very quickly into felony territory if you’re just above the limit.
Similarly, any of those crimes, they are not eligible for expungement. And so people who are convicted right now have possession of more than an ounce of cannabis still can’t have their record expunged, still have to answer on an application for employment or federal subsidies or whatever. That conviction is still following them around in a way that’s extremely detrimental. And so people maybe aren’t thinking about that.
We are still a very long way from legal like tomatoes.
Now that we have legalization, you would wish that it was, I would wish that, Heady Vermont would probably wish that it meant legal like tomatoes and we are still a very long way from legal like tomatoes.
Kathryn Blume: Yeah. And we’ve heard a lot of people say, “It’s a plant, why are we bothering with regulation at all?” And I certainly understand, though, that you have the legacy of prohibition and the amount of misinformation that’s been shoveled down people’s throats for a really long period of time. And that takes time to overcome.
You know, going back to the whole arc of my perception of how quickly this has all happened, it actually reminds me a lot of the arc of same sex marriage legalization. Because it’s a thing which was in the closet and practically inconceivable for a really long period of time, with many, many unfortunate human level consequences to that.
And then they’ve been chipping away for decades. As something starts to turn, the pace with which it all turned around struck me as kind of remarkable. Which is one of those things that occasionally gives me hope for the arc of justice being, you know, heading in the right direction.
It’s the incremental creeping, creeping, creeping – and then there can be a turning point and then the pace accelerates.
Laura Subin: Yeah, I think you’re right. It’s the incremental creeping, creeping, creeping – and then there can be a turning point and then the pace accelerates. I think that it’s a good analogy.
Some people have taken exception. I know, in the marriage equality movement to the comparison, because they think of marriage equality as a much more fundamental human rights issue, so just to flag that. But I think that there is another parallel to be made in the compromises that were made along the way, that some people thought were worth it and the right thing to do for incremental change, so civil unions. But some people opposed it because it wasn’t marriage equality, it wasn’t marriage.
Similarly, that terrible Medical program we compromised on in ’04, and then decrim was another compromise and then legalization without tax and regulate is another compromise. And so that there are plenty of people, and I respect their points of view, that those compromises interim positions, were not worth it and that it would have been better to hold out for our full civil rights and equality to alcohol, I guess you’d look at it. In the same way some people hated civil unions and didn’t support civil unions because they only wanted marriage.
Kathryn Blume: Yeah. Yeah. What was interesting to me about, I know this is a diversion, but when we passed civil unions, it happened so quickly, there was that huge social backlash. And that it seemed like the community wasn’t prepared for any form of it.
Social justice issues interrelate.
So that you could say that civil unions caused a rupture in the social fabric, which was either a positive thing, because it move things forward or there is that bit of a backlash. But it did spark a conversation that seemed to me at least to smooth the way a little bit for when we did take up same sex marriage for real. and real marriage equality. Civil unions, the sky didn’t fall. And so sort of much like decrim, the sky didn’t fall, we have a medical program, the sky didn’t fall, and it becomes easier for people to contemplate a more fully just suite of legislation.
Laura Subin: I think that’s right. And of course, while we’re on this tangent, Vermont, went first on civil unions but wasn’t brave enough to go first all the way to marriage equity. Snd similarly, we were the first legislature to get to legalization, but we didn’t legalize a full tax and regulate. So I think Vermont’s willing to go first to a certain extent.
Kathryn Blume: Exactly. And you know, I’ve heard that in the energy community that people trying to push it carbon tax, like, “Well, we want to wait until some other folks do it because we’re so small, you know, we can’t handle it.” Which is a total digression, but that’s all right.
Laura Subin: All these issues are– Social justice issues interrelate.
Kathryn Blume: They are connected. They really are. They really are. So we’re looking at S.54 being revived again, reconsidered this upcoming session. What do you like about it, and what are you hoping we can still get our hands into and tweak?
Laura Subin: I like that it creates a Cannabis Control Board and takes it out of a government, the previous proposals. That was really sort of the biggest change with S-54. We’re all sort of used to it now after a year of hearings about it.
I think there was a lot of thoughtful work done around protecting the smallest farms and small farmers.
But it was the first proposal that created a separate entity to oversee cannabis. And I think that’s good policy and will protect an emerging cannabis industry from too much change as the administrations in Montpelier change. So, I like that model.
And I like the fact that there’s a recognition that this is an emerging industry, and so there needs to be some flexibility. So, if you put too much in legislation, spell it out and legislation, it’s much harder to fix. That said, it’s also one of my biggest concerns about S.54 because it’s going to make a huge difference who is ultimately appointed to that Cannabis Control Board.
The Senate version only had three people on it, and I was very glad that the House brought it back up to five. Because I think we’re really – that’s going to make a huge difference who ends up being on that board, and how much really input they take from which kinds of stakeholders in the rules that they roll out. That’s a plus and minus.
There’s language that requires prioritizing minority and women owned businesses, and for various considerations for businesses that will come and communities that are disproportionately impacted by prohibition.
I think that some of the social equity provisions are good. You know, there are language that minor possession can crimes from barring people from access in emerging industries. There’s language that requires prioritizing minority and women owned businesses, and for various considerations for businesses that will come and communities that are disproportionately impacted by prohibition. So, I think all of that is very positive.
There are some really – I think there was a lot of thoughtful work done around protecting the smallest farms and small farmers, or farms that want to just add a small cannabis crop to maybe a larger farm that grows other things.
And I think that that really was a lot of hard work that was successful advocacy from the original proposals, once upon a time, that didn’t weren’t even going to allow any homegrown to say, wait a minute, people should be able to grow and sell a small amount of cannabis on their own property without regulations and fees, and all of that that would really be a barrier to access for the smallest farmers. So that’s probably I think that one of the strongest pieces of the legislation.
I want to hear those folks talking about consumer safety.
Kathryn Blume: Nice. And as we’re preparing to descend upon the Capitol in January, what would you like to see the average interested individual – so not a passionate Canvas activist necessarily – but someone who cares, who wants to come, who wants to meet their legislator, wants to sort of pony up their opinion, what would you want to hear those folks talking about?
Laura Subin: I want to hear those folks talking about consumer safety. And I think that there has been misinformation, and valid information, about the changes in potency of cannabis over the years, of the different types of cannabis products. I think there’s a lot of confusion for people that aren’t entrenched in this of what’s dabbing and what’s vaping? And people really don’t what shatter, people don’t know or understand these products. And the same way you wouldn’t want to walk into a liquor store and just grab a bottle and hope for the best, you might have a beer and you might have 150 proof something. I think there is real consumer safety and consumer interest.
So you may not want to – You want to know, is this going to be a light buzz, I can go skiing or go for a walk or go to the grocery store. Or I might not be sitting on the couch for an hour. People want that information, and as they experiment with different cannabis products to see what they’re getting. And of course, also for safety so that people don’t overdo it, and that they can know exactly the size of an edible product they’re getting and how much cannabis is in that. So, I think that for the average Vermonter is one of the most important things.
There are plenty of smart potheads out there, we know that for a fact.
And for youth to be able to have conversations with younger people, with teenagers that are just starting to maybe be experimenting with cannabis. But my hope would be that eventually you could talk about – these regulated products are safe and here’s how we know and here’s what’s in them. And here’s these other products you may not know what’s in the oil that you bought on the internet for your vape cartridge. So don’t be an idiot and don’t use that product. So, I want to have conversations with youth like that.
Kathryn Blume: I kind of feel like my great public awareness campaign is titled “Don’t Be A Stupid Pothead.”
Laura Subin: And there are plenty of smart potheads out there, we know that for a fact.
Kathryn Blume: Smartest people I went to college with. Definitely. Also wanted to check in, we’ve got the Women In Cannabis summit coming up in April. We’re excited to have you participate in that. Why do you think it’s necessary to have a summit specifically devoted to women in cannabis?
I was on the local news all the time. I was in a lot of the print media a lot, and I would get reactions in my own community, “Oh, I saw you on the news.” And by the way people would say that, there would either be judgment or excitement.
Laura Subin: I think, like any industry, we are still far way from gender equity. And I fear that in the emerging cannabis industry, we’re going to recreate a lot of the same problems that we’ve had. And that we already see in the states that have gone before us. The vast majority of cannabis businesses are owned by men. And I’d like to see that change.
Kathryn Blume: So, on a personal level, have you had any blowback for your choice of career? Where you know, parents of your kids, friends or community members, not being comfortable with what you’ve been up to?
Laura Subin: I have felt it in my own community. Especially in the earlier years, I was one of the first public advocates. I was on the local news all the time. I was in a lot of the print media a lot, and I would get reactions in my own community, “Oh, I saw you on the news.” And by the way people would say that, there would either be judgment or excitement. And for me personally, with my kids and with my professional identity, I found myself wanting to make it very clear that I was in this for criminal justice reform reasons, and not just to advocate for cannabis users.
I have a six year old daughter who learned how to say “criminal justice reform” very early on.
And I have a six year old daughter who learned how to say “criminal justice reform” very early on and now hopefully, she’s a budding activist herself, but not a cannabis consumer as of yet.
But yeah, I think there was that concern. It was also as far as the system’s advocacy, I was somewhat known in the statehouse for the work that I did around domestic violence issues and I would walk in and that would be my identity. And then that changed to walking in as the crazy pot lady and that was a big shift that I had to learn to be comfortable with, and to continue to feel very good about the social justice, economic justice, racial justice, civil rights reasons why I thought this issue was important enough to be the person out there to be a spokesperson.
I also recognize that I think one of the reasons that I was brought on to be that spokesperson was because of my demographics. I’m a lawyer. I’m a mother of three kids. I have all the things that are, on paper, I look pretty good to counter the stigma about cannabis advocacy.
I don’t think the progress has gone as quickly for women as it has for men as far as accepting cannabis use, having cannabis as the focus of your professional identity.
Kathryn Blume: I want to wrap back around actually the gender question for a second. Why do you think it is that we’ve seen in the states that have legalized in the arc of how the businesses have gone, why is it that the percentage of female leaders is going down? When in fact, you know, it didn’t start out quite as disproportionate as in say high tech, what do you think happens?
Laura Subin: I don’t have all the data on that. I think that cultural paradigm shifts are slow. And even though we have had a huge amount of progress, I don’t think the progress has gone as quickly for women as it has for men as far as accepting cannabis use, having cannabis as the focus of your professional identity.
I think women developing their professional identities while we’ve come an awfully long way, it still has different and unique challenges than it does for men in general. We know that it’s harder for women to get capital in any business and so I think that’s probably proving true in the cannabis industry as well. So, I think that all the barriers for women in business are there, times stigma about women and cannabis.
Kathryn Blume: And women in general being held to all kinds of societal double standards, or higher degree of standard, because of how we view the responsibilities of motherhood. And the whole concept of femaleness in general which is not something we’ve really been able to puncture quite yet.
Laura Subin: Yeah, I think that’s right. I think a lot of times like the mom should be staying with the kids are doing whatever and the dads are out partying which is absolutely ridiculous. But I think that there is an old stereotype about that persists.
There’re so many jokes that I can make about family cannabis rivalry, I don’t even know really where to go with that one.
Kathryn Blume: Yeah, for sure. Speaking of stereotypes, families, so this is just a fun question. So you have a brother.
Laura Subin: I do.
Kathryn Blume: Andrew Subin, one of the founders of Vermont Cannabis Solutions…
Laura Subin: Guilty.
Kathryn Blume: Yeah, right. Sounds like. Is there any kind of family cannabis rivalry in terms of your effectiveness in what you do or…?
Laura Subin: There’re so many jokes that I can make about family cannabis rivalry, I don’t even know really where to go with that one. But he wins on a lot of fronts, let’s just put it that way.
Kathryn Blume: Are your parents still around?
Laura Subin: Our mother is still around.
Kathryn Blume: And how does feel of this?
Laura Subin: She’s proud. She is a liberal believer in social justice and civil rights and so she’s proud. Our angles on… we’re both attorneys but I don’t have any interest in being a cannabis attorney and representing cannabis businesses. And so we are both engaged on this issue, but in very different ways. So I think it’s a camaraderie more than a competition. It has been fun for me.
Andrew came here from Washington State where which would – obviously legalized first with Colorado, one of the two earliest states to legalize and that year, I had just gotten involved in the policy advocacy in Vermont, but he still lived in Washington. And so I would have lots of conversations about him while he was living in Washington, and he was walking into stores and I was banging my head against the wall at the Statehouse. And then when he moved here, it was really fun to continue those conversations in a professional way. And so no, I think it’s a pretty friendly competition.
Kathryn Blume: Can you imagine your mom’s holiday letters like, “What my kids are up to!”
I am delighted to work myself out of a job specifically on this issue and have more time to devote to other progressive causes that I care a lot about.
Laura Subin: Well, and then I just have her put cannabis criminal justice reform, I have my daughter, write the holiday letter…
Kathryn Blume: So let’s say we nail it. Let’s say the best case scenario happens and we got a great tax and regulate system in place and we’ve improved medical and we’ve done the whole shebang, and we’ve expungements out the wazoo and your job is done, and you get to close your doors, what do you want to do that next, have your fantasies about where you want to be spending your time on?
Laura Subin: For me, it’s still criminal justice system reform. I have the honor to direct a foundation, the Pennywise Foundation. And we do grant-making and technical assistance locally, nationally and internationally. Then we value smart approaches to policy, to programming, and to organizational sustainability on a bunch of different levels.
I’m a proponent of legalization of all drugs. I think we need public health responses to public health issues of substance misuse disorders, and the opioid epidemic, and all of those horrors. I do not think the criminal legal system should be used to address those problems.
I am delighted to work myself out of a job specifically on this issue and have more time to devote to other progressive causes that I care a lot about. There is an absolute mountain to continue to climb on criminal justice reform issues in particular. Not speaking for the Vermont Coalition To Regulate Marijuana, but personally, I’m a proponent of legalization of all drugs. I think we need public health responses to public health issues of substance misuse disorders, and the opioid epidemic, and all of those horrors. I do not think the criminal legal system should be used to address those problems.
And so there are still many, many, many miles to go on those fronts. And so that’s where I’d like to continue working and leave the rest of you to take care of the baby industry.
Kathryn Blume: Well, Laura, thank you so much, and thank you for all of your hard work, and I’m sure many folks will be excited to see you in January at the State House.
Laura Subin: My pleasure. Thanks so much for having me do this.
Kathryn Blume: That’s it for this episode of Unhidden. Thanks so much to Laura Subin for her time and tireless advocacy. Thanks to West End Blend for the excellent theme song. Thanks also to the whole team at Heady Vermont: Monica Donovan, Erin Doble, Kelly McDowell, Christina Hall, Karen Santorello and our canine overlords Oso, Potato and Luna. You can visit Heady Vermont on our web site: Headyvermont.com and on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. You can find the Unhidden podcast at Soundcloud, iTunes and wherever fine podcasts are sold. We’ll see you next time.