Statehouse Headliners: Medical pot expansion bill removes ‘local’ option; Mormon super community sees opposition

By Guy Page

S.216, allowing a medical marijuana prescription for any medical condition, will get a quick look in House Human Services Committee next week. The bill also removes a “local option” for cities and towns to ban the sale of marijuana.

An attorney for the Legislature will conduct a quick “walk-through” to familiarize the committee with S.216. There will be no testimony taken, and no vote, a committee spokesperson said.

S.216, which approves the prescription of medical marijuana for any condition by any medical practitioner qualified to prescribe, was approved by the Senate earlier this month without benefit of any testimony by doctors. Senate committee leaders refused offers by three physicians groups to have doctors testify. House Human Services Chair Ann Pugh said last week anyone who wishes to testify on S.216 should contact committee assistant Julie Tucker by email.

S.216 also eliminates an earlier draft’s provision allowing municipalities to ban medical marijuana dispensaries — the so-called “local option.” The following language appeared in an early draft (pg. 39), but was struck from the final version:

“Nothing in this subchapter shall be construed to prevent a municipality from prohibiting the establishment of a dispensary within its boundaries or from regulating the time, place, and manner of dispensary operation through zoning or other local ordinances.”

At least 189 of 351 municipalities in Massachusetts have banned the sale of recreational marijuana, according to the March 17 Boston Globe. Unlike S.216, the Bay State’s legalization law includes a local option.

Carbon Tax study $$ makes state budget? Not so fast, Scott administration says – Last week Headliners reported that supporters of H.763, providing $100,000-plus to study carbon taxation, had effectively bypassed a House vote by getting House Appropriations Committee to include it in the proposed 2019-2020 budget. Gov. Phil Scott strongly opposes any carbon tax and will not spend state money to study it.

The Scott administration Thursday afternoon confirmed it will seek to cut the carbon tax study, by amendment if necessary. Although Vermont governors do not have a “line item veto,” they can still exert a strong influence on final spending decisions.

Homeless bill of rights dead – Rep. Tom Stevens (Waterbury), sponsor of H.412, says the bill will remain in the General, Housing and Military Affairs Committee this year. It lacked sufficient committee support to bring to the House floor, he said. The bill intends to strengthen employment and housing rights of Vermont’s homeless population, but civic and business leaders say it could empower nuisance vagrancy in downtown business areas.

Vermont Yankee sale hearing set for 7 p.m. April 12 in Brattleboro – A Public Utilities Commission (PUC) public hearing on the sale of Vermont Yankee to NorthStar will be held 7 p.m. April 12 at Brattleboro Union High School. The state of Vermont will offer a public information session at 6 p.m. The public hearing is the last opportunity for members of the public to tell the PUC what they think about the planned sale to NorthStar. A March 2 settlement resolved outstanding finance, safety and environmental questions about the 10-year decommissioning project, but some anti-nuclear organizations are still expressing reservations about the sale.

Physician-prescribed death bills rejected in Massachusetts – Thursday, March 22, the Patients Right Action Fund reported to a Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare (VAEH) supporter:

The Massachusetts Joint Committee on Public Health held a poll vote today and the result is that both the House and Senate assisted suicide bills were sent to a study committee, effectively killing the bills for this legislative session! This is a huge victory – Massachusetts was one of the big targeted states for Compassion and Choices.

The odds were formidable: 40 bill sponsors, the media, and four full-time paid employees working for Compassion and Choices in the state. The Massachusetts Alliance did a commendable job in defeating the bills. Many testified at a public hearing; 25 doctors held a Doctors’ Day at the State House; the doctors and members of the disability community visited committee members on a continual basis; the disability community did legislative briefings; and constituents held district meetings with committee members.

Also last week, the State of Utah approved a law banning doctor-prescribed death.

So far the Vermont Legislature has been quiet regarding doctor-prescribed-death (AKA physician-assisted suicide). Several bills with the potential to limit physicians’ rights of conscience are being watched closely by VAEH for any signs of activity. Not surprisingly, bills introduced last year to fix some of the problems raised by Act 39 have not received any attention.

Orange County lawmakers oppose planned super-community with Utah, Mormon roots – House Resolution 20 (p. 771, 3/21 House Journal), opposing the New Vistas mixed-use development project covering almost three square miles of Orange County, was introduced March 21 and sent to a committee for study. Sponsoring representatives include Briglin of Thetford, Ainsworth of Royalton, Buckholz of Hartford, Christie of Hartford, Conquest of Newbury, Copeland-Hanzas of Bradford, Frenier of Chelsea, Graham of Williamstown, Haas of Rochester, Hooper of Randolph, Jickling of Randolph, Lucke of Hartford, and Masland of Thetford.

The resolution notes that “New Vistas Foundation, a Utah nonprofit corporation, and its founder, David R. Hall, have proposed a long-term plan to construct a 2.88 square-mile, up to 20,000 resident, mixed-used industrial, commercial, and residential development in rural areas of the towns of Royalton, Sharon, Strafford, and Tunbridge.” It says the project is not consistent with the town plans of its would-be host communities. Developer Hall is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, whose founder, Joseph Smith, was born in Royalton.

Tuesday, March 20 the Legislature adopted a far less controversial resolution, JCR 276 – praising the Wayside Restaurant on Route 302 in Berlin for 100 years of serving good food at a great price. Click on link to read the history, owners, and accomplishments of one of Central Vermont’s terrific restaurants.

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, Divestment Facts, the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare and the Church at Prison.

Image courtesy of Bruce Parker/TNR

One thought on “Statehouse Headliners: Medical pot expansion bill removes ‘local’ option; Mormon super community sees opposition

  1. Massachusetts towns can ban the sale of Marijuana, but Vermont towns won’t be able to.

    Do insurance companies have to cover medically prescribed marijuana? I hope not.

    Some people think alcohol is medicinal. Are we going to have to buy that for people too?

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