Pubdate: Sun, 16 Aug 2015
Source: Burlington Free Press (VT)
Copyright: 2015 Burlington Free Press
Author: Aki Soga, Free Press Reader Engagement Editor


Gov. Peter Shumlin stepped into the marijuana debate this past week 
in the worst way possible - by getting his facts wrong. Shumlin did 
nothing to help his push for legalizing marijuana with his gaffe 
about how easily teens can obtain the drug in Vermont.

The governor is right to emphasize that the state must find ways to 
curb substance abuse, especially among young Vermonters. But those 
who see legalization as part of the solution must show that their 
plan will have a meaningful impact on curbing abuse. They can afford 
to do nothing less than build their arguments on the soundest foundations.

At stake is taking what is an outlawed drug and giving state sanction 
for its for recreational use. The task before elected representatives 
calls for a clear-eyed view of the risks involved. Regulation must 
ensure that Vermonters are better off when pot is available from 
state licensed dispensaries rather than only from criminals on the street.

The governor told reporters on Monday that teenagers in the state can 
obtain marijuana more easily than alcohol, saying, "We can show you 
the numbers" to back up his claim.

By Wednesday, his administration was unable to come up with the 
"numbers" and told the Free Press that he has "misspoke."

The governor's basic message is sound: legalizing and regulating 
marijuana - similar to how alcohol is handled - will limit minors' 
access to the drug. As Shumlin said, "The state won't sell to minors, 
and dealers will."

Legalization also will mean law enforcement and the courts will be 
able to better focus on harder drugs and squeezing out criminals who 
profit from the sale of marijuana, instead of arresting casual users.

T.J. Donovan, the Chittenden County state's attorney, tempered his 
enthusiasm for legalization after a fact-finding visit to Colorado 
earlier this year.

Donovan, a candidate for state Attorney General, said what he learned 
from visiting a state where marijuana had been legalized in 2014 is 
the need to make sure the state can properly regulate the drug.

That's sound advice.

Vermont should take the time to learn from where marijuana is legal 
for recreational use, Washington, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, 
Alaska and Washington, D.C.

The experience of early adopters have raised questions such as how to 
regulate potency and enforce impaired driving laws, and how effective 
legalization is in cutting marijuana use among youth.

Marijuana legalization increasingly appears to be a question of when 
in this state, rather than if. How becomes the critical question. 
Vermont's elected representatives must get this right, and that 
starts with getting their facts straight.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom