By Guy Page
The Vermont press ignored testimony former U.S. Attorney to Colorado Robert Troyer, an Obama appointee, gave to the House Government Operations Committee this week. But when former Vermont governor and Dr. Howard Dean announced he has “flipped” on marijuana legalization and even has joined the board of a big Canadian marijuana production company, the news was greeted with big headlines and an enthusiastic, uncritical account of Dr. Dean’s conversion.
Despite notifications on the Vermont legislative website and a Tuesday Headliners story announcing Thursday’s testimony, sent to most media outlets, only one Statehouse reporter (except yours truly) attended. And according to a Google search this morning, there has as yet been no press coverage (except by yours truly and the media that carried my column.)
If reporters had attended, they would have learned that this eight-year veteran of the Colorado marijuana wars reported (reprinted from Friday’s Headliners):
- Most youth don’t smoke joints anymore. Instead they “vape” extremely high potency 60-90 percent THC oils through devices that look like students’ pens and flash drives.
- One in five students is a regular drug user (of some kind), three times more than before legalization.
- Alcohol and opioid consumption both up.
- The high school dropout rate has increased.
- The number of employees testing positive for marijuana tripled.
- Marijuana-related calls to poison centers are up 500 percent. ER visits for marijuana overdose are up 52 percent, hospitalizations up 148 percent.
- Marijuana possession arrests are down 8 percent for whites, up 59 percent for blacks and 38 percent for latinos.
- Students in ethnically diverse high schools are twice as likely to be suspended for marijuana possession as students in mostly white high schools.
If they had attended Thursday’s hearing and reported, their readers, listeners and viewers, and even House members would also know that:
- African-American students from Champlain Valley Union High School spoke eloquently to legislators against the legal marijuana industry’s targeting low-income neighborhoods.
- High-potency marijuana grown illegally in “pot legal” states like Colorado and California is flooding into Chittenden County schools, a school substance abuse professional testified.
But, for whatever reason — including the undeniable fact that their numbers are few and their workload very heavy — the professional press corps hasn’t informed Vermonters about the realities of the Colorado experiment with tax and regulate marijuana. However, they were able to report that a physician and former governor is happy to lend his name to the marijuana industry.
Rob Roper, president of the Ethan Allen Institute, has a saying: “become your own media.” When the traditional media drops the ball – which in all humility we all do from time to time — it becomes all the more important for informed, connected Vermonters to “become our own media” and get out the facts. And it become crucially important when the Legislature is facing a vote to create an industry that, once legalized, will become even more entrenched and impossible to stop.
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.