Pubdate: Thu, 20 Sep 2012
Source: Vermont Cynic (U of Vermont, VT Edu)
Copyright: 2012 Vermont Cynic
Author: Katy Cardin


Legalizing marijuana may still be up for debate, but come Election
Day, Burlington voters will have the chance to tell lawmakers how the
Queen City really feels about the illegal drug.

With an 11-3 vote, the city council approved a non-binding question on
the November ballot that will allow citizens of Burlington to vote for
or against the legalization of cannabis and hemp products.

The official ballot question, denied two years ago with a 6-6 vote,
states, "Shall the people of Burlington support the legalization,
regulation and taxation of all cannabis and hemp products?"

The people of Burlington will be given the chance to respond Nov. 6.
If passed, supporters say the measure would be a way for city
residents to send a message to Vermont legislators that they
disapprove of the state's current rules regarding illegal cannabis and
hemp products.

Max Tracy, a city councilor for Ward 2, introduced the ballot, along
with Ed Adrian, from Ward 1, and Norm Blais, Ward 6, after a February
2012 Public Policy poll reflected strong support across the state for
decriminalization, according to

"Rather than wait until it's really picked up a lot of feed
nationally, I'd rather see Burlington lead the way on this issue,"
Tracy said.

Many Burlington residents do not know that marijuana is not even
decriminalized, the step usually taken before legalization, Tracy
said. Decriminalization removes the penalties for possession while
legalization removes the penalties for possession, production and

"[People] come to Vermont and our reputation doesn't really keep up
with reality," Tracy said. "People think of Vermont as this really
liberal place with a lot of pot smokers, and, with the consequences
they think 'Oh, the laws are super liberal,' but they're really not,
so we're hopefully using this opportunity to get it there."

According to a study by Jon Gettman, a former head of the National
Organization of the Reform of Marijuana Laws, the arrest rate for
illegal marijuana use rose four percent between 2003 and 2007 across
the state, stated.

First time violators are eligible for a sentence deferral, but getting
caught a second time could result in a two-year jail sentence and/or a
fine of up to $2,000.

During the public forum before the councilors' discussion and vote,
many Burlington citizens expressed their opinion on the referendum,
with some in agreement with Tracy.

Albert Petrarca, founder of a group supporting the referendum called
BTV Green, said that he thinks citizens should have the right to vote
on the legalization question as a democratic principle.

"This is a pro-cannabis, pro-hemp town," Petrarca said. "And I think
that's probably one of the reasons why some people will choose not to
vote tonight =C2=85 they know what the outcome is going to be and they're

going to find various reasons as to why it shouldn't be on the ballot
and why people shouldn't have a democratic right to vote on it."

Vermont gubernatorial candidate Emily Peyton said she felt like the
support of legalization would be a progressive step for Burlington's
economic and health policies.

"Industrial hemp has the capacity to help us rebuild our manufacturing
base here in Vermont - we can replace all our plastics with industrial
hemp products," Peyton said.

"People can get cured of cancers with high THC marijuana - that turns
me on," she said. "It turns me on that [people] can get cured of
melanomas, and that they can get cured of diabetes, and of Rheumatoid
arthritis and we could get rid of our problems of poverty in the state."

Councilor Bram Kranichfeld of Ward 2 said that marijuana legalization
could help alleviate a legal system that tends to be cluttered with
marijuana violations.

"In my experience as a criminal prosecutor who has prosecuted many
people for marijuana, I think there is no question that we need to
rethink our policy on marijuana as a community, as a city, as a state
and as a country," Kranichfeld said.

"Voting for this resolution is really voting for democracy, to put the
question to the voters in Burlington," he said.

Other councilors did not agree. The three councilors that voted
against the referendum were David Hartnett of Ward 4, and Vincent
Dober Sr. and Paul Decelles, both of Ward 7.

All three spoke about the negative effects younger children could
experience being exposed to a legalized marijuana industry.

"I spent many years working with kids 25 plus, and I wish they could
be here today to tell you that when I asked them, 'How did you get [in
rehabilitation]? Where did you start?'" Hartnett said. "It's usually
'I smoked a joint and it wasn't that bad so I went to the next thing.'"

Junior Emily Bruni said Burlington's support of legalization would be
a rational policy.

"It is mind-boggling how much money and resources are spent in this
nation to stop the spread of a harmless drug while numerous legal
drugs like alcohol cause harm, death and rifts in communities," Bruni
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt