By Guy Page
Remember back in January, when the Legislature was considering the bill that would become Act 86, Vermonters were assured that legal “recreational pot” would just be grown and smoked in people’s homes?
Boy, were we ever naïve.
Pot has only been legal to grow and consume for 10 days, and already entrepreneurs and traders are selling or trading it on Craigslist and at country fairs, for starters. Consider the evidence:
Exhibit A – a South Burlington person used Craigslist to offer to trade an ounce of “high quality, organic grown weed” for a good riding lawn mower.
Exhibit B – in its article entitled “Legal Cannabis Grows Loopholes, as well as Profits,” the July 18 Bridge of Montpelier describes a new marijuana specialty law firm with “24 clients signed up and another two dozen waiting.”
And no wonder! Consider the advice being given to ‘entrepreneurs’ about how to get the biggest bang for their cultivation and marketing buck by getting around the Legislature’s and governors’ intent for Act 86, Vermont’s personal cultivation-and-use law:
“Gifting,” says the Bridge, describes “what’s happening now in Washington, DC, and Maine, [lawyer Timothy] Fair notes, where cannabis dispensers are sometimes charging $100 for a Snickers bar and then giving the marijuana as a freebie. ‘This is what happens when there’s only a half measure and you legalize without a mechanism for a tax-and-regulate system; you get entrepreneurial ingenuity. I fully anticipate seeing $50 t-shirts and $50 massages that include a free gift of cannabis.’ He said the tattoo industry did the same thing before it, too was granted legal commercial status.
“Air layering” is, says the Bridge, “a method of growing new plants, with roots and all, from stems still attached to the parent plant. ‘That would keep your numbers completely compliant even though you could potentially have tens, or possibly a hundred, depending on the size of the plant,” a cannabis consultant explains. “You could easily snip off those that are fully rooted and that wouldn’t constitute an additional number to your system. So I think some interesting propagation techniques can get around those numbers in a sense.”
Exhibit C – “Gifting” at the pot festival in Johnson – Sunday, July 1 about 1000 people attended the Heady Vermont Legalization Celebration in Johnson. And as the 7/4/2018 Seven Days notes, “signs of a nascent gray market were evident.” At least two businesses were “gifting” marijuana brownies, cookies and joints in return for $20 raffle tickets and $15 string bracelets.
Who knew the possibilities? Answer: Vermont legislators knew about gifting before they voted for the law, or at least they would have known if they had been paying attention when in December and afterwards anti-legalization advocacy group Physicians, Families and Friends for a Better Vermont pointed out the then-potential, and now very real problem of gifting.
So is the solution full commercialization? Yes, but only for ‘entrepreneurs’ seeking a quick buck selling or growing an addictive drug, or for lawmakers desperate and shortsighted enough to consider commercialization a legitimate source of revenue. But for the Vermonters more concerned with people than money, consider what has already happened in some or all pot “legal” states:
- a dramatic increase in pedestrian deaths and an increase in overall highway deaths
- more highly-expensive mental health visits to the emergency room, according to a Pueblo, Colorado ER doctor
- no effective roadside test for DUI
- illegal cultivation and sale of marijuana continues in strength because high taxes (the whole point of commercialization) mean “buyers would rather hit the black market.” Notes one legalization critic about proposed California sales tax reductions due to black market competition: “who is the idiot that believes the black market will EVER leave? And now the tax payer will be left holding the bag for even more costs due to the destruction caused by the pot industry?”
- a huge increase in marijuana poisoning of children under age five in Washington State – from 162 when the legalization law passed in 2012, to 378 in 2017, according to state statistics. This happens when little kids find and eat their parents’ THC-infused, candy-like “gummies” – the cause of death of a California two-year-old girl last month.
- Youth-targeted marketing and “social acceptability” leading to higher consumption by teenagers
- Drug cartels creating illegal “grow” facilities in homes (Colorado), complete with electric-shock security to injure nosy police SWAT teams.
- Municipal bans by wealthy communities, leaving marijuana storefronts in poor communities. The July 7 Boston Globe says this trend “confirms some of the worst fears aired during the 2016 campaign” to legalize pot. Pot stores in the Bay State are, by process of elimination, being located in the poor towns, which are already losing the drug addiction war due to underfunded, overburdened health care, prevention and educational services. Vermonters concerned about economic justice, take note.
- Overall social economic costs of increased consumption (health care, crime, lost productivity) will outweigh sales revenues – which, in California, were 80% below the state’s expectations.
Other than that – what’s not to like?
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.