“How Republicans Can Win on Cannabis in 2020”

Posted on August 2nd, 2020 to Cannabis News by

Of all the things wrong with our present political paradigm, the two-party dichotomy is the worst.

Over the last five years I’ve spent in politics, I’ve witnessed the failures of both of these parties (and the Progressives) on cannabis policy and I’m sorry to say that in August 2020, we’re still at least two years away from any legal sales actually happening.

Instead of ripping those most responsible for the lack of progress in the three years since legalization passed — follow me on twitter for that — I’m going to share a look behind the lobbying curtain and publish an email that I shared with Governor Phil Scott’s staff on January 14, 2020 titled, “How the Governor Starts Winning on the Cannabis Question in 2020.”

One last caveat, before I break the cardinal rule and publish a lobbying email: I did not send this email because I’m a Republican, or because I want Phil Scott to win re-election.  His opponent David Zuckerman is the best cannabis reformer in this state and one of very few politicians whom I can sincerely trust and personally admire.

I sent this email back in January because no matter who was, is, or will be, in the Governor’s office, he/she/they will need to be part of the discussion, and the path to improving and reforming Vermont’s medical cannabis program and building a foundation for an equitable tax-and-regulate system is about implementing a technical administrative plan, not a political ideology.

I also had already been dismissed by Democratic lawmakers in the House as well as fellow cannabis advocates, who believed passing and then (eventually, maybe) improving a flawed tax-and-regulate bill was a better strategy. Despite watching the Democratic speaker of the house retard cannabis policy for four years, those fellow advocates were mostly horrified I’d even try to lobby ‘the dark side’.

I thought, ‘fuck that, maybe Phil Scott’s people will at least have a political incentive to listen to some innovative and politically-practical suggestions?” and sent along the following email to Jason Gibbs, Chief of Staff; Rebecca Kelley, Communications Director; and Ethan LaTour, Assistant Director of Policy & Communications.


Hi Jason

I hope you’re enjoying the start of the 2020 session and writing you today in the hopes of starting a dialogue with your office regarding cannabis regulation in 2020.
To be clear, I’m talking about supporting medical reforms, not tax-and-regulate as presently written in S.54.

I’m writing today because as an eighth generation Vermonter, I believe in the existence and importance of the Vermont Republican, and that Governor Scott — who both my lesbian mom and I voted for in 2016 — is our best hope at keeping some kind of balance in VT politics with a reasonable, Yankee Republican. As a Millennial, I’m not a partisan who thinks in the lense of D/P = good and R = bad; additionally, it’s clear that cannabis regulation is a generational issue, not a partisan divide — whether you voted for Bernie or Trump, all of us under 40 agree on cannabis regulation, the question is just if the state is willing to start the process and who can sincerely lead a multi-year, strategic, incremental and sustainable effort.

Regulating cannabis in Vermont is not a political question, it’s a technical one. And there’s a chance for the Governor to support MEDICAL cannabis reforms in 2020 that would have an immediate impact on thousands of sick Vermonters, enhance public safety by setting up cannabis testing (not presently required in the medical marijuana program), create new revenues through new lab and medical grower licenses, and support small business and our tourism economy by providing medical cannabis to out-of-state cardholders.

We need three competencies to make cannabis work in Vermont, in this specific order:

  1. A dedicated office in a state agency, or new commission to administer and regulate the program. 
    • The simplest cheapest way is to Ag for licensing, DLC for enforcement, Health and DPS for public safety with Tax Dept for financial 
  2. A product safety testing standard and independent or state labs
  3. Enough licensed, tested supply to compete with the illicit market

Whether it’s Nevada, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maine, or Quebec — each of these new adult use markets has failed to adequately prepare with licensing, testing, and enough legal supply and Vermont will suffer the same fate. By expanding our medical program with these aforementioned changes, we can build the foundation we need to start regulating cannabis like the non-toxic substance it is and treating it like an economic opportunity, not the Devil’s lettuce.

I’ve been critical of the Governor in the past on this issue, but I’m not ready to give up on your office or political party as being potential leaders to implement the apolitical changes we need to build a foundation for this future nine-figure industry and existing substance.

S.54 is presently a fatally-flawed bill that will be opposed by a large percentage of the cannabis community as a corporate cannabis bill, and is doubtful to receive support from the Speaker’s office as the issue progresses and more details are discussed publicly. With a concerted effort to sincerely support a medical cannabis reform bill, the Governor could instantly become a leader on cannabis regulations in 2020 in a way that is more impactful and politically sincere to his previous statements about incremental progress and protecting the most vulnerable (medical patients who already pay the state to regulate cannabis).

I would sincerely appreciate any opportunity to meet with you and/or your office staff to speak privately (or publicly as a cannabis advocate visibly meeting with the Governor) about cannabis reforms on the table — and not — in 2020 and beyond. I’m in the State House tomorrow (Weds) for the tail end of tourism day and then in the afternoon, all day on Thursday, and generally in Montpelier Tues-Thursday for the rest of the session.

Thank you in advance for any/all time and consideration.

Eli Harrington


Since sending that email, no medical cannabis reforms were considered in the Senate or House.

The House passed an unpopular (to everyone but the dispensaries and a few lobbyists) version of the S.54 tax-and-regulate bill, the Governor’s office blew me off completely, and then COVID hit and it all seemed pretty trivial in comparison to 80k unemployment claims…

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