State Headliners: Marijuana Commission to hold ‘listening tour’

By Guy Page

Should Vermont create and oversee the legal, for-profit cultivation and sale of marijuana? Why or why not? The Vermont Marijuana Commission wants to hear from you. The following 6:30-8:30 p.m. meetings have been scheduled to hear public feedback:

Nov. 26: Asa Bloomer Building (2nd floor) in Rutland
Nov. 28: Williston Central School Auditorium
Dec. 3: Morse Center, Black Box Theatre in St. Johnsbury
Dec. 5: Vermont Veteran’s Home in Bennington
Dec. 6: White River Junction National Guard Armory

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Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership, the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare, and Physicians, Families & Friends for a Better Vermont.

To help inform Vermonters interested in attending the ‘listening tour,’ the Marijuana Commission has published three separate fact sheets, each dealing with a key concern about marijuana legalization:

Roadway Safety
Education and Prevention, and
Taxation and Regulation

The Commission needs to provide answers for some startling statistics related to use. In 2017, 16 Vermont highway fatalities had marijuana in bloodstreams, compared to six alcohol-only DUI highway fatalities.

Of the 69 fatalities on Vermont highways in 2017, 16 were confirmed by post-mortem testing to have had cannabis and/or THC in their bloodstreams. Police suspect that a total of 16 were driving under the influence of drugs only (including marijuana). By contrast, six people died on Vermont highways in 2017 while driving under the influence of alcohol only. Speeding was the number one cause of highway deaths.

The increased connection of marijuana and fatal highway accidents in Vermont mirrors the findings in Colorado, where recreational marijuana has been legal since 2012. The Denver Post reported in 2017:

The number of drivers involved in fatal crashes in Colorado who tested positive for marijuana has risen sharply each year since 2013, more than doubling in that time, federal and state data show. Increasingly potent levels of marijuana were found in positive-testing drivers who died in crashes, according to coroner data since 2013. Nearly a dozen in 2016 had levels five times the amount allowed by law, and one was at 22 times the limit. Levels were not as elevated in earlier years.

Just as the state of Vermont should not increase the speed limit or legalize the passing of school buses because it would certainly lead to more highway deaths, the state of Vermont should consider that increased marijuana use will likely lead to more highway deaths.

No effective impaired driving test

Roadside saliva testing detects THC presence but not cannot determine the level of concentration. Therefore the suspect can admit to consuming marijuana but can challenge any conclusion of impairment. Even if Vermont adopts the “zero tolerance” marijuana DUI now in effect in Quebec, suspects can again successfully challenge a law presuming but not proving impairment. At present only a blood test can determine THC concentration levels. In Vermont, police cannot order a blood test against the suspect’s will, but must have a court order from a judge – a lengthy, cumbersome and expensive process that is unlikely to be available for routine traffic stops.

Drug Recognition Expert (DRE)

Thorough DRE investigation requires some level of cooperation by the suspect (for example, allowing the officer to take a pulse, check for eye dilation, slurred speech, etc.) The suspect charged with the June 8, 2018, double-fatal death of acclaimed local runner Rob Lind and his fiancé in Newfane chose not to cooperate with the DRE, press reports said. Also, the Roadway Safety report notes that DRE testimony is being challenged in courts (pg. 13). As of early 2018, no one in Vermont had been convicted in a jury trial based on DRE testimony. No one doubts the skill and commitment of Vermont law enforcement DREs, but neither can we count on this strategy to keep Vermonters safe.

Under “tax and regulate,” Vermonters will pay more for car insurance

Paying more for car insurance isn’t as traumatic as involvement in a marijuana-induced highway accident, but it is a consequence of legalization that will affect virtually every Vermonter. Publications as diverse as Consumer Reports and the pro-legalization website “The Cannabist” report that auto accidents and insurance rates have risen more in marijuana-legal states than in neighboring states. The chief actuary of the Insurance Information Institute estimates a 4-6 percent increase in car insurance rates in pot-legal states. In Vermont, A 6 percent increase in insurance premiums on all 615,950 registered vehicles in Vermont would cost about $28.3 million. The average Vermont car insurance premium is $764, according to Reviews.com. A 6 percent increase would add $46 in annual premiums, for a total of $810.

Imposing tax and regulate legalization on Vermonters would take money out of their pockets, including those who would not drive under the influence and who would rightfully resent the state passing a law that makes driving a car not only more dangerous, but more expensive, too.

Statehouse Headliners is intended primarily to educate, not advocate. It is e-mailed to an ever-growing list of interested Vermonters, public officials and media. Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership; the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare; and Physicians, Families and Friends for a Better Vermont.

Images courtesy of EPA/U.S. National Archives and Records Administration and Page Communications
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8 thoughts on “State Headliners: Marijuana Commission to hold ‘listening tour’

  1. Don’t waste your time with this so called “listening tour”, the decision has already been made. Just a horse and pony show so they can pacify the public. Zuckerman and his crew have everything ready to go.

  2. “Of the 69 fatalities on Vermont highways in 2017, 16 were confirmed by post-mortem testing to have had cannabis and/or THC in their bloodstreams. Police suspect that a total of 16 were driving under the influence of drugs only (including marijuana).”

    The fact that THC influenced traffic deaths in CO. more than doubled since 2013? Was that 10 to 20 in five years? Where these legal users or tokin’ young drivers? No lives lost would be great but impossible to expect. More drivers, more distractions, more choices, and consequences.

    Correct me again if I see a “misinterpretation” here but the law for medical MJ and rec. possession went into effect in July of 2018? So these pre-law statistics are for illegal users which I see is still happening for alcohol, cell phone, texting, and speeding.
    Point is there will always be law breakers no matter how we try to legislate and enforce.

  3. Why doesn’t the “commission” observe what’s happening in CO with their open marijuana policy? The latest news stories (seen on 2-3 networks) indicates trouble. CO is experiencing higher crime, vehicle accidents (deaths), increase in B;lack Market sales & shipping the stuff out of state (unregulated there), tax revenues not as expected.

    Get the heads out of the sand (or arse) and see reality, the proof is there. Forget your dumb “feel good” policy.and see the facts. No “commission” is needed (another taxpayer cesspool spending).

    The people who vote for this crap should be held personally accountable if people die because of their ignorance.

  4. With regards to the article, “The suspect charged with the June 8, 2018, double-fatal death of acclaimed local runner Rob Lind and his fiancé in Newfane…”, correct me if I’m wrong but wasn’t that suspect also under the influence of several class one drugs including Fentanyl(sp)?
    I personally know someone who crashed a truck after blacking out due to Heroin. but not MJ.
    Let’s make sure our rhetoric is compatible with the subject, please.

    This topic is complex in many ways. It should be thought out carefully, like search and seizure laws and underage usage, legally allowed medical THC in the bloodstream, and employee termination of public employees for THC in bloodstream, to name a few.

  5. These folks could care less about what the experts say or what the folks want, all they see is the possibility of BIG tax bucks they can spend on a buch of looney tune projects.

  6. Since marijuana was classified a Schedule I drug in the early 1970s, research with human subjects stopped. It follows that no studies show scientifically that elevated THC levels correspond to impaired driving. THC is not similar chemically not behaviorally to alcohol. One can not scientifically nor legally assume parallel effects operate from THC as are well documented with alcohol impairment. In fact, basic human research on human information processing and reaction times done at UVM (Bill Saxby and Rik Musty) 1971 showed some data that could be consistent with enhanced driving abilities and faster reaction times!

    Without objective scientific evidence of driving impairment, politicians and legislators are guessing when trying to fashion laws that seek consequences for driving with THC in the body.
    Further, THC is fat soluble and remains in the body’s fat stores for up to 30 days, unlike alcohol which leaves at a rate of about 1 ounce (of actual alcohol, not beer, wine not whiskey) per hour. Regular marijuana smokers will never clear THC from their systems though they may not have smoked in many days and feel no effects, nullifying the utility of “zero tolerance” testing and impaired driving legislation.

  7. Should Vermont create and oversee the legal, for-profit cultivation and sale of marijuana?

    The Vermont Marijuana Commission wants to hear from you, really … we all know this is a
    done deal. Our legislators have already made up their minds with .. revenue, revenue they
    believe this will be the salvation for the States Money Problems ……….Idiots.

    Wait until all the stoners are on the road, let’s see how they handle this……

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