VT Senate Gov't Ops Committee Hosts "How?" Hearing [full video + commentary]

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VT Media Coverage:  Vermont Public Radio  |  WCAX  |  WPTZ  |  WVNY  |  VTDigger  |  Seven Days  |  Burlington Free Press

Tuesday, November 3, 2015 was a great day for grassroots democracy in Vermont.  Regardless of what you think about legalizing cannabis, it's important not to take for granted the opportunity to speak directly to our elected officials, in a public forum, especially when you see how a state (ahem, OHIO, ahem) can get this process so wrong...As someone who has escorted literally hundreds of international visitors through the statehouse to observe panel hearings, general sessions, and for meetings with the leg. council, our level of access and impact as 'average' citizens is something that foreign visitors have to see to believe and which is unimaginable to many.  So kudos to the Senate Gov't Operations Committee and it's members for opening up this process.  If you care about the future of cannabis in VT, have informed opinions, and want to reach the decision-makers, this was one of your best chances, along with the Senate Hearing on 11/19.  This group will likely draft the legislation between 11/19-12/10, so if you want input, NOW is when it happens...

VT Senate Gov't Ops Committee hears from Bill Lofy representing VTCC - pic via Terri Hallenbeck & Seven Days

VT Senate Gov't Ops Committee hears from Bill Lofy representing VTCC - pic via Terri Hallenbeck & Seven Days

The hearing itself went from 10am to 4pm and framed it's session as to addressing how the state might legalize cannabis IF it happens.  Truly, an opportunity to elevate the discussion above the yes/no question and to get into the details of 'how' with specific recommendations from experts.  Bill Lofy of the Vermont Cannabis Collaborative and Francis Janik (who represents VT Home Grown) stole the show in the pre-lunch session.  Lofy presented detailed and well-researched suggestions, which included potential tiers for licensure (home grower, craft cultivator, large producer), a points system to advantage Vermont-owned businesses, and suggested possible cooperative structures to help provide testing and market access for small, artisanal cannabis growers in Vermont.  Janik, who is a licensed patient and medical grower, shared his group's strong position advocating for a 10x10 canopy for home growers (vs. a plant count) and spoke out against low THC bloodstream limits on behalf of patients, pointing out that he had smoked that morning and was perfectly coherent and drove safely to the hearing.  "Do I seem stoned or disoriented to you?" might be the quote of the year and took some serious gumption to drop in that room, cheers Fran...

Eli Harrington, Vermontijuana founder, described as "Pro pot advocates"...not inaccurate or unfair, maybe next time toss up a website title though next time?

Eli Harrington, Vermontijuana founder, described as "Pro pot advocates"...not inaccurate or unfair, maybe next time toss up a website title though next time?

For those whose only knowledge of the event was the VT news media, the only small critique of the coverage from Vermontijuana's perspective was the inclusion of the anti-legalization physician who was quoted and interviewed in media pieces, but who did not speak at the forum.  From a conventional media perspective, it makes sense to include the 'anti' perspective for the perception of balance, and because the forum was focused on 'how' and explicitly not the 'if' question, it makes sense that she didn't speak.  It's pretty minute in the bigger picture, but just a journalism nerd nit-picking...generally, (most of) the VT media has been pretty fair and accurate in their coverage, which we hope continues as the session heats up...

Below is the full video, split into two sections and courtesy of ORCA Media (support community TV people!!) broken into two sessions...Vermontijuana founder Eli Harrington was #3 in the morning, right after Fran Janik.  Also, shout out to Senator Joe Benning (R-Caledonia/Orange) who has very reasonable well-publicized views on legalization, and who accurately called out Eli's attempt to quote Ethan Allen.  For a Vermonter and history buff, such an offense could merit a tarring & feathering, so a humbling verbal correction was more than appropriate.  Here's the correct version of the quote, a great reminder for all those interested in the "Vermont Way":

"THE GODS OF THE VALLEY ARE NOT THE GODS OF THE HILLS, AND YOU SHALL UNDERSTAND IT"  --Ethan Allen  (Reply to King's Attorney General, June 1770)