Pubdate: Thu, 15 May 2014
Source: Burlington Free Press (VT)
Copyright: 2014 Burlington Free Press
Author: Dave Gram


MONTPELIER -- The administration of Gov. Peter Shumlin is gearing up 
for a task assigned to it by the Legislature: studying the fiscal and 
other impacts if the state were to legalize marijuana.

Shumlin agrees with lawmakers "it's timely to do a study," said 
Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding, whose agency is to report its 
findings to lawmakers by Jan. 15.

"We're not going to prejudge what our position would be at the end of 
it," he said.

An amendment to a bill removing the cap on the number of patients who 
can get medical marijuana in Vermont called for a study of "possible 
taxing systems" for marijuana, any savings or costs connected with 
taxing and regulating the drug, and the experiences of other states 
that have legalized, which as of now are Colorado and Washington.

Less than a week after lawmakers adjourned, Spaulding said the 
administration hasn't determined how to carry out the task.

"I know that we're going to take it seriously and we'll probably do a 
pretty thorough study," he said.

Shumlin has said repeatedly he wants to watch what happens in 
Colorado and Washington before deciding whether legalization is a 
good idea for Vermont. Spaulding cautioned that January, when his 
agency's report is due, may be too soon to give a definitive answer.

Advocates on both sides of the issue are already offering suggestions 
for what Vermont ought to consider.

Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project, which supports 
legalization, said one issue in Colorado "that perhaps wasn't 
foreseen was how edibles and infused products would be regulated."

Edibles have come under close scrutiny in Colorado after a Wyoming 
college student visiting Denver ate more of a pot-laced cookie than 
recommended and jumped to his death from a hotel balcony. Last month, 
a man fatally shot his wife after eating pot-infused candy.

Those two deaths since marijuana became legal in January are far 
fewer than the 161 drunken driving deaths reported for Colorado in 
2011 by the group Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The MADD statistics 
didn't include suicides or homicides tied to alcohol.

Kevin Sabet, executive director of the anti-pot group Project SAM -- 
for Smart Approaches to Marijuana -- said states eyeing potential 
marijuana tax revenues should consider that the social costs of 
alcohol, ranging from lost workplace productivity to traffic 
accidents, usually outstrip revenues from taxing the beverages by 10 to one.

"For the state to think they're actually going to gain money when all 
is said and done I think is a very difficult proposition to make," Sabet said.

Rep. Kristina Michelsen, D-Hardwick, a legalization supporter who is 
leaving the Vermont House after one term, said she hoped that any 
legalization scheme in Vermont will allow not just for a commercial 
industry, but for people to be able to grow their own at home.

Sabet said just allowing homegrown might be preferable to full 
commercial legalization, which he said "invites profit-seeking 
companies with very little regard for public health."
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