Vermont is pondering commercial marijuana legislation that would grant reduced licensing fees and a low-interest loan fund for “individuals who historically have been disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition.”
Initially funded with $500,000, the bill, S.25, includes no eligibility requirements such as business experience, residency, proof of prior conviction of a relevant offense, or a business plan. In the name of “creating equity,” the issue of race has been made paramount, creating new inequities, new resentments, potential fraud and waste, and bad law.
S.25 is controversial enough in legalizing the “Devil’s lettuce” for widespread sale. The vague language defining qualification reflects the absence of any statistical demonstration that black Vermonters have been targeted by the legal system, or whether there are black Vermonters who wish to launch a weed business. Presumably the allusions to those who have been “disproportionately impacted” by prohibition refers to allegations that Nixon et al increased drug penalties to disenfranchise black voters. But marijuana prohibition long predated Nixon, was motivated by commercial interests, portrayed white youths smoking “reefers,” and harmed numerous caucasian lives — it was never “all about race.”
The dearth of evidence to support loaning money to BIPOC people for pot cultivation is reflected in vapid justifications from state lawmakers:
“There are some people who have been more impacted and probably less able to come up with the funds and the business plans and stuff because of the impact that the prohibition laws have had on them,” said Sen. Jeanette White, D-Windham, chair of the Senate Committee on Government Operations.
“Probably there are some people” is a hand-in-the-air of evidentiary nothingness, as is this blather from another senator:
“Many people, many white college students, for example, might get caught up in law enforcement, but have a very different experience when it comes to sentencing, or actual findings of guilt, than Black and brown Americans,” said Sen. Kesha Ram, D-Chittenden.
Vermonters deserve better when creating laws that have such huge impact. To the claim that people “might” have a “very different experience” of “actual findings of guilt” we should ask: do they?
Has Vermont’s Legislature become so “deer-in-the-race-card-headlights” frozen that it requires zero evidence to enact every race-flavored bill it encounters? One bill alleges prostitution was banned in Vermont for racist motives — will that become law without a shred of truth or fact? Using vague generalizations and extrapolating anecdotal incidents into stereotypes may be a central tenet of social justice activists, but is it to be rubber-stamped so easily by uncritical legislators?
Vermont is welcoming refugees from foreign lands — many are black, and thus individuals who are part of a group who historically suffered disproportionately from prohibition: do they get pot-selling loans? Further, are “undocumented workers” permitted to apply? They get special drivers permit privileges, and we are told by Racial Equity Director Xusana Davis that Vermont agriculture is dependent on them: When someone refers to the dairy industry as the backbone of the state’s economy, she points out that it’s supported by a largely undocumented Latino workforce. And when a public official blithely suggested that perhaps black people should join the ranks of police instead of criticizing them — as Waterbury Selectboard member Chris Viens did last year — Davis suggested that law enforcement’s “para-militaristic slave-catching history” may be an impediment.
There’s another disconnected, vague historical grievance again — is there evidence that Vermont’s law enforcement officers have been chasing down runaway slaves in Vermont? (Perhaps subsidies for BIPOC police would be better received than for legalized drug dealing.)
Such tiresome opportunistic initiatives are finally attracting overdue critical assessment. Senate Minority Leader Randy Brock, R-Franklin, wisely and bravely stood up and voiced this concern:
“I’m very uncomfortable with a trend that I see in this bill, in which we appear to be making decisions based upon color and ethnicity, in terms of regulation and in terms of fees. We are a nation of individuals, not a nation of individuals who are in subgroups that should be treated differently based upon their color, or their gender, or their sexual orientation, or their ability or disability,” he said.
That contrasts sharply with indignant remarks from Mark Hughes, of the Racial Justice Alliance:
“And yes, our target is those folks who are American descendants of slaves and folks who are Black, Indigenous and other people of color. Why? Because that is what the system has historically disproportionately impacted,” he said.
These same actors have persistently marginalized Vermont’s police by abusing statistics to avoid examining whether black defendants are out-of-staters. It’s bad enough to label police racists and potentially expose Vermonters to more narcotics trafficking and gang activity. Now the social justice warriors claim nebulous historic inequities nationally mean that every new BIPOC arrival should receive Vermonters’ money to sell pot.
So much for Martin Luther King. Allocating money based on skin color is racism. Rewarding loans to newly-arrived blacks to sell drugs as “reparation” for the drug war is a whole new reefer madness.
John Klar is an attorney and farmer residing in Brookfield, and the former pastor of the First Congregational Church of Westfield. © Copyright True North Reports 2021. All rights reserved.