On January 12, 2016

Vermont leaders approach cannabis with healthy skepticism and caution, not naiveté

Dear Editor,

I’m a ninth generation Vermonter so while I might be proud, I think history has shown that we’re very capable of governing ourselves, even when our approach is different from those of other states.

In response to the op-ed by Julia Purdy “Vermont ‘exceptionalism’ is naïve,” I ask: Was it naive to help lead the national debate on gay marriage or did we do it because we were guided by our own ‘Vermont way?’ Should we model our gun laws after states with high rates of violent crime or keep our ‘Vermont way?’ Why bother making GMO labeling laws part of the ‘Vermont way’ if California still doesn’t require packaging labels? We can do it with guns and human rights, but we won’t be able to govern ourselves when it comes to the cannabis plant?

The approach being put forward is the same one that you’ll get from any education source that this (now developed in some parts of the country) industry provides: low and slow. This approach is finally being put forward after years of careful consideration via observing the developments–good and bad–out West, monitoring one of the country’s most conservative medical marijuana programs in Vermont, and legislators spending time outside of the session to be educated by policy experts from around the world.

There are certainly questions that remain for what a ‘Vermont way’ approach to cannabis really means, and those questions need to be worked out. This is why Senator White’s proposal to include a commission and cannabis control board eases the transition and allows those supervising to cautiously proceed and make corrections to the policies as they evaluate what really works here in Vermont.

Nervous about advertising of cannabis? Great, let’s make sure that in Vermont, we’re not allowing for discounts or happy hours (a la tobacco and alcohol policies) and let’s keep retail outlets away from schools. Worried about infused products such as dabs, shatter, edibles, and budder? Well, good news, there’s no mention of these in this round of the legislation, which proves that in Vermont we’re committed to the low and slow approach, even when it means delaying and blocking that very lucrative market in 2016. If you’re really steadfastly opposed to any sign of cannabis in your community, you can lobby your local select board to keep businesses out of your community–assuming your neighbors share your concerns.

This process has been one that’s been undertaken by our Vermont leaders with healthy skepticism and caution, not naiveté.

Those who disagree with cannabis progress have spoken, been heard, and as a state, we’re proceeding forward as the majority have requested. There will continue to be respectful discussions between neighbors and online, and these conversations will continue to be heard and implemented by our lawmakers. Even if the author disagrees with the outcomes, we’ve proven with gay marriage, guns, and GMO’s that we’re more than capable of making our own laws.

Eli Harrington, Burlington

Eli Harrington is the founder of Vermontijuana, a hub for information and resources related to the evolution of cannabis reform in Vermont, www.vermontijuana.com.

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