Pubdate: Fri, 04 Jan 2008
Source: Burlington Free Press (VT)
Copyright: 2008 Burlington Free Press
Author: Ken Freer


We lost the so called "War on Drugs" a long time ago and it's time to 
introduce a little common sense. Gov. Jim Douglas' spat with Windsor 
County prosecutor Robert Sand brought this issue to our attention 
just recently. I think that the Vermont Lottery does more harm to 
Vermont citizens than smoking marijuana. The Lottery Commissioner 
always shouts, "Please play responsibly!" while he and his staff are 
dreaming up more games to fleece those people who can least afford to 
lose the money.

Now the governor is talking about leasing the lottery to a private 
business that will probably further abuse our citizens. The money 
realized from the proposed lease would be used to help fund our 
public education program and maybe reduce taxes. Why not get rid of 
the lottery and find another, more responsible, way to raise money to 
support the education of our children?

The Vermont prison population continues to grow even though we have 
farmed out inmates to other locations. Corrections officials, the 
Legislature and the administration say they are now very concerned. 
They should be, and maybe they should take some time to find out how 
many "criminals" they have incarcerated because they were in 
possession of "significant" amounts of marijuana.

Enforcement officials hold press conferences around here if they 
seize a few pounds of marijuana. Is that really a significant amount, 
and should it be enough to send someone to jail when our correctional 
institutions are bursting at the seams? What is the recidivism rate 
for those marijuana violators that we have incarcerated? We probably 
don't have answers for those questions or many others that could be 
posed. The point is that we need to reconsider our law enforcement 
stance on marijuana as part of any larger study that we appear poised 
to do on the ever-increasing Vermont prison population.

There is no argument that Vermont is one of the most heavily taxed 
states in the country. Despite this, our roads are in horrible shape, 
we never seem to have enough money for education and the corrections 
system is bleeding us dry. So where do we go for help? If an adult 
could legally buy enough marijuana and the paper to roll a cigarette 
at one of the local convenience stores, would that be the end of the 
world? I don't think so. The state could tax the hell out of that 
transaction in order to help pay for our roads and fund our schools. 
We could probably stop stealing money from people with the Vermont 
Lottery. Marijuana arrests, related criminal activity and 
incarceration would decline. Oh, and if someone with a medical 
condition who could benefit from smoking an occasional joint were 
able to use some marijuana without feeling like a criminal, that 
would be nice, too.

We passed the civil unions law in Vermont and the sky didn't fall. 
Gay marriage doesn't look like it is far behind and the sky still 
hasn't fallen. Incredibly, we sold and gave up control of Vermont 
Yankee to a private company and just lately seem "concerned" about 
some safety issues, including the long-term storage of nuclear waste 
on the banks of the Connecticut River. I wonder if the sky might fall 
on that decision?

However, if we allow the same person who can now legally buy a 
six-pack of beer, a carton of cigarettes or a bunch of lottery 
tickets at Cumberland Farms to also purchase a personal-use supply of 
marijuana, the sky will not even notice. After a few months, I don't 
think anyone will notice except law enforcement, the Corrections 
Department, the state treasurer and maybe the lottery commissioner.

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Ken Freer lives in Morrisville.
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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart