"Smart Approaches to Marijuana Vermont" (SAM-VT) is the state's local affiliate of the national organization with the same name. Both at the national level, and here in Vermont, it's a coalition of prevention treatment organizations, law enforcement groups, rehab centers, and nonprofits. It's a well-organized group who generally help support and implement drug education and prevention, youth services, and law enforcement.
It also represents a group whose members/stakeholders all have an objective and legitimate financial and political interest in maintaining the legal status quo of cannabis prohibition. Police, drug education groups, and addiction x treatment x counseling centers all receive various federal fund$ for studies, programs, and enforcement actions (seizures and fees). It also means they couldn't really publicly support it if they wanted to. This is partly why law enforcement proponents, like Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), count many retirees as members. For more about the origins of SAM, check out the in-depth, investigative July 2014 piece from The Nation titled, "The Real Reason Pot is Still Illegal".
There's no doubt that people like SAM-VT and their local friends, who dedicate themselves to policing and helping youth with addiction have good intentions and work for our benefit. But they're using scare tactics based on misleading information and largely missing the points of a productive legalization discussion in VT. Here are their top three talking points:
1. Think of the children
If the young people of Vermont are your primary concern, then you acknowledge that the status quo has of preventing marijuana use has utterly failed.
As the Vermont Department of Health Marijuana Data Brief notes, "compared to other States, Vermont has:
- The highest prevalence of past 30 day marijuana use among 18–25 year olds. Past 30 day prevalence rates have significantly increased since 2002.
- The highest prevalence of past 30 day marijuana use among 12–17 year olds.
- Among the highest prevalence of past 30 day marijuana use across all ages.":
Rather than only preaching abstinence, this is an opportunity to update drug education (through more research and more education funds from revenue) to make it more reality-based, while still not promoting unhealthy behaviors. Everyone can understand that cannabis doesn't make you smarter, especially long-term, so continue to encourage youth sobriety for all logical reasons--nobody wants more young people using THC--but use the reality check as a chance to put alcohol and tobacco (and that other thing VT's got a problem with) in perspective.
2. Legalization isn't inevitable
This is true, nothing is inevitable (depending on your version of the Thucydides essay about human agency v. destiny) and it's an easy line for VT pols to use to avoid getting into the details, especially if they're not running. However, a majority of Vermonters support and expect legalization, and it's coming to the region in 2016 (whether from north, east, or south), which will certainly impact Vermont with or without our own legal framework in place. So we can be proactive in at least creating a framework we can update, or we can wait until we've got to deal with collateral impact from other states/provinces around.
3. We don't want to become like Colorado or know what's happened out west.
We do know what's happened out west and the sky hasn't fallen, but legislative updates ARE being made all the time. A LOT of revenue $$$$$$$ has come in, and a lot more is expected, even in Washington where the roll-out was far from perfect. In Colorado, some of the revenue is being used in really creative educational ways, like the Colorado Dept. of Transportation's "Drugged Driving" campaign.
Culturally, VT seems to have a lot in common with CO, WA, and OR...in Washington, 77% of people said legalization has had a positive effect, or no effect on their lives. Moreover, just as with the Vermont League of Cities & Towns, much of the cited information about Colorado comes from a single group, the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area report. It's information that's flawed and widely contradicted at best and described as misleading by many.
With more and more Vermonters being informed and joining the discussion these points and others are bound to receive more attention in the coming weeks. Join Vermonters of all cannabis persuasions at the upcoming forums:
- Upcoming Events:
- Thurs. 10/29 VT Health Assoc. Public Health Forum (Burlington) 5:30-7pm, UVM Davis Center
- Tues. 11/3 Senate Gov't Operations Committee Public Hearing (Montpelier) 10:00am-4:00pm, VT State House, Montpelier