Pubdate: Thu, 06 Sep 2012
Source: Burlington Free Press (VT)
Copyright: 2012 Burlington Free Press
Author: Joel Banner Baird


Cannabis Referendum Could Serve As Message to Montpelier Leaders

Legalize marijuana and hemp? Don't hold your breath.

But with eight votes Monday night, the 14-member Burlington City 
Council might place a non-binding question on the legalization issue 
before city voters in November.

Councilor Max Tracy, P-Ward 2, plans to introduce the referendum at 
the Monday council meeting with Democratic co-sponsors Ed Adrian, 
Ward 1, and Norm Blais, Ward 6.

The proposed ballot item reads: "Shall the people of Burlington 
support the legalization, regulation, and taxation of all cannabis 
and hemp products?"

It is not, Tracy said Wednesday, an endorsement of drug use. Nor is 
it a blueprint for legislative action.

"It's a way to survey voters and see how they sit on this issue," 
Tracy said. "I would hope the other councilors, and the voters, are 
open to at least having the conversation."

Supporters say the measure, if it passes, would signal to the state 
that current laws - which criminalize the possession or cultivation 
of even small amounts of marijuana - are destructive relics from a 
misguided and costly war on drugs.

In other words, Burlington voters would be declaring that they'd 
welcome progress at the Statehouse.

A local advocacy group, BTVGreen, states online that by placing the 
measure on the November ballot, the council would help make 
Burlington "a leader in reasonable marijuana policy reform."

City resident Albert Petrarca, who started BTVGreen about two years 
ago, said "jobs, justice and the environment" should define how 
cannabis is regulated.

"We need to take this underground economy and move it above ground," 
Petrarca said.

House Speaker Shap Smith, D-Morrisville, who plays a large part in 
shaping the direction of legislative sessions, has said he'll no 
longer stand in the way of a decriminalization bill. Gov. Peter 
Shumlin already is on record for being on board.

Council President Joan Shannon, D-Ward 5, has said she'll support the 
measure. So has Councilor Rachel Siegel, P-Ward 3.

Democratic Ward-4 Councilor Dave Hartnett said his views on 
marijuana's legality have shifted away from outright prohibition - 
after listening to decriminalization-friendly views aired during the 
Democratic primary for Attorney General.

"I'm leaning toward supporting the referendum," Hartnett said 
Wednesday. "I'm interested in the discussion, and I'd be curious to 
see where the people of Burlington stand on this."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom