By Guy Page
Last year Gov. Phil Scott created the Vermont Marijuana Commission to identify and if possible solve likely problems in revenue, licensing, youth drug use prevention and treatment, and public safety if the Vermont Legislature approves “tax and regulate” commercial cultivation and sale of marijuana. A final report is due by mid-December. Today, the commission met at the Vermont State House to hear subcommittee updates. Here are some facts they reported:
There will be no financial windfall for Vermont’s General Fund. The estimated $15 million of marijuana tax and license revenue will be needed to meet expected regulatory, drug prevention and treatment, and public safety costs created by a “tax and regulate” environment. Gathering more revenue will incentivize the black market, both tax and public safety officials said. “It’s foolish to think there will be money left over,” Tax Commissioner Kaj Samson said.
None of the forecasting has studied the economic impact of an influx of transients into a legal-pot state, Samson said. In Colorado, for example, a growing percentage of the incarcerated population are pot-smoking transients, according to an April 2018 report by CNN.
Youth consumption is up. Vermont youth consumption of marijuana rose 33 percent between 2015-2017, even as alcohol and tobacco use decreased. One in five young consumers consume 80 percent of their age group’s marijuana. LGBT and children of color are especially heavy users. Also, one in five young consumers believe heavy marijuana use will do them no harm. Concern about growing numbers of heavy youth users “will guide our decision-making, for sure,” Vermont Department of Health Commissioner Mark Levine said.
THC potency in edibles is up. “Potency of THC in [edible] products has escalated dramatically as we speak, never mind in over the last decade,” Levine reported. In a new legal landscape where concentrated marijuana is available in ‘candy’ form, Levine said public safety and prevention officials must find some way to “keep candy bars, gummy bears out of the hands of those they would harm the most.”
Police still have no effective roadside test for marijuana impairment. “As of right now we do not have an effective way of testing drivers,” Public Safety Commissioner Tom Anderson said. His subcommittee is studying several ‘zero tolerance’ laws that allow conviction of impaired driving upon proof of minimal use.
Convicted drug offenders may be licensed to cultivate, sell – the licensing and taxation subcommittee may recommend that convicted drug offenders be eligible to receive commercial licenses to cultivate and sell marijuana, provided the offenses were not violent.
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.