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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Marijuana Ballot Item Goes Up In Smoke

For the second year in a row the Burlington City Council debated whether to ask voters if they are interested in decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana by way of a ballot question. For the second year in a row the City Council shot down the idea of letting voters weigh in.

Councilors voted 8 to 6, Monday night, against putting an advisory referendum on the March 3 Town Meeting Day ballot. Ed Adrian proposed the initiative, which would have asked voters if they want the city to urge lawmakers to examine the issue of decriminalizing marijuana.

"I think it's clear that after 70 or 80 years of active law enforcement against marijuana and the fact that we have not been able to solve the problem over that time period speaks volumes and I think it speaks volumes in that it's at least time to start looking at something else," said Adrian.

He garnered community support from several people who spoke at Monday's meeting.

"In this time of economic downturn I think that we might be able to spend our time and our resources and our money fighting real crime against persons and property," said Nancy Lynch, of the Vermont Alliance for Intelligent Drug Laws.

Burlington Police Chief Michael Schirling testified against the measure. He said even small amounts of marijuana pose a problem because they are just the tip of a much larger network of drug dealing. He was also concerned about confusing children.

"The dangerous educational message it sends to youth that it starts to blur the line about where safety really needs to be considered," said Schirling.

Councilors debated for over an hour before making their final decision.

Bianca Slota - WCAX News

WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-Marijuana Ballot Item Goes Up In Smoke

“I hate these stupid fucking arguments. Doesn't the Police Chief mean "further blur the line"? We already send conflicting messages by our stance on alcohol and tobacco. What are the Council members afraid of here? Are they saying their constituents are too stupid to decide this issue for themselves?”

We spend an incredible amount of money enforcing marijuana laws. Considering the amount of people who smoke it would make sense to generate revenue from its use. The state could also greatly benefit from the many indusrial uses for hemp products. While there is a process to become a hemp farmer, I have yet to hear whether anyone has applied for a permit. It would seem that while decreasing the stigma of hemp production would help, it would also help to streamline the process fo apply for a permit.

I think it's time once again for Vermont to take the lead on a national issue. The Legislature should decriminalize marijuana in small, personal use quantities. At the same time they should provide tax breaks for hemp related products that add new jobs to the economy. If we get ahead of the curve a bit, we could add "Vermont Made Hemp" to our growing list of fine agricultural products that receive the Vermot Quality seal.
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