On March 3, 2021

Why ‘opt in’ for pot?

By Angelo Lynn

This year on Town Meeting Day, 23 towns voted on whether to allow the retail sale of cannabis. They were: Barton, Bennington, Berlin, Brandon, Brattleboro, Brownington, Burlington, Danby, Danville, Duxbury, Lyndon, Middlebury, Montpelier, Newport City, Pawlet, Pownal, Randolph, Richmond, Salisbury, Strafford, Waitsfield, Waterbury and Winooski. (Voting finished after publication deadline, visit mountaintimes.info for results). However, even for those towns that approve the measure, retail stores would not open for well over a year.

The reason to hold the vote now is to provide town officials more than a year to establish appropriate zoning, create oversight boards (if wanted), provide for educational campaigns and other actions towns may choose to do well ahead of opening day. We applaud the early vote.

In the end, the issue is where to locate such sales to the best retail advantage, as well as insuring adequate regulation and monitoring.

Let’s also be frank: we’re legalizing a drug that can be harmful to personal health. But so are cigarettes and alcohol. We legalize such sales to better regulate them, and because prohibition doesn’t work.

It’s important to recall that on Oct. 7, 2020, Gov. Phil Scott allowed the bill establishing a marijuana marketplace in Vermont to become law, making Vermont the 11th state in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana sales. The law responds to the wrongful policies that criminalized marijuana in the first place.

As part of the law, Vermont towns were allowed to “opt-in” or “opt-out” — that is to allow or reject the sale of cannabis. But make no mistake about that choice. Denying the sale of cannabis in any town will not prevent, or even slow, its use. If there is demand, the market will prevail.

The question residents face is where cannabis products should be sold in the state. Voters who hope to stop the sale or spread of the drug by voting ‘no,’ will only hurt those towns with retail bases that might benefit from the added commerce.

The very next steps, however, should be to focus on education concerning use of the drug, and to broadcast the dangers of abuse (of marijuana and all drugs) clearly and frequently . The law does provide funding for that purpose.

By voting now to opt-in, residents will not only position their retail communities to seek any positive economic gain, but also will have a seat at the table in determining the regulations that need to be set in place to keep the community informed and as healthy as possible. It is, in short, better to be in the driver’s seat than to be a silenced passenger.

Angelo Lynn is the editor and publisher of the Addison Independent, a sister publication to the Mountain Times.

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