Pubdate: Tue, 13 Jan 2015
Source: Burlington Free Press (VT)
Copyright: 2015 Burlington Free Press
Author: Kimberly Cheney
Note: Kimberly Cheney of Montpelier is a former Vermont attorney general.


Vermont must legalize, regulate, and control marijuana if we expect 
to improve public safety, inform our children of its dangers, keep 
money out of the pockets of criminals, and build a coherent policy 
coordinating police, public health, education and peer support to 
reduce youth drug use.

Marijuana prohibition has failed to deter people from consuming 
marijuana and, as a result, it has fostered the growth of an 
underground market and made criminals rich. Existing prohibitionist 
policies simply haven't worked, and even decriminalizing marijuana 
possession for adults still stops short of undercutting street 
dealers and reducing associated violence. As we have in so many other 
ways, Vermont can once again be a leader, showing how a carefully 
crafted law can be a victory for justice and public safety.

Vermonters should support marijuana regulation whether they consume 
marijuana or not, because prohibition has strained our entire 
criminal justice system.

Prohibition diverts already limited police resources away from 
assisting with calls reporting break-ins, domestic violence, and 
other violent and property crimes.

Vermont did decriminalize personal possession of small amounts in 
2013, and while that keeps many of our friends and neighbors out of 
jail and court, it didn't appear to free up much extra time for 
officers to do their jobs.

In 2014, Vermont law enforcement issued more than double the number 
marijuana citations than the marijuana arrests on file for 2012. 
Ticketing low-level, nonviolent marijuana users creates a 
questionable incentive for police to, once again, waste their time 
instead of keeping the peace.

Children are most certainly not safer when marijuana is kept illegal.

In order to accept this, we must also fully acknowledge that people 
of all ages across the world will continue to experiment with drugs 
regardless of the law. People even use and sell drugs in countries 
such as Singapore, where the punishment for some drug crimes is the 
death penalty. Marijuana prohibition empowers dangerous criminals to 
profit from a business that operates entirely under the radar, so 
they're not required to test the product in a lab for purity and potency.

They're not required to check a customer's age before a sale. 
Marijuana dealers don't just sell marijuana, either; someone who 
sells marijuana could easily expose a child to other drugs that have 
far more serious health and social consequences, and dangerous 
situations that involve gang activity, weapons and violence.

Marijuana prohibition - not marijuana itself - is the true gateway drug.

It is prohibition that sends the wrong message to kids, that secret 
use, hiding from police and parents, and hanging out with suppliers 
is the way to live. Instead, public awareness of how marijuana may 
impact a developing adolescent brain, or how adult abuse impairs life 
goals, must be prioritized alongside responsible regulations. Parents 
should be educated in how to have conversations with their children 
about substance use and abuse.

Explaining marijuana legalization to children - children who could 
very well know more about the drug than their parents - should be no 
different than having a conversation about alcohol and tobacco. The 
concerns that parents may have about their kids being harmed by 
legalized marijuana can be addressed more effectively by education, 
regulation and opaque, childproof packaging than by continuing 
ineffective and counterproductive prohibition. Legalizing marijuana 
hasn't created a safety crisis for children in Colorado or 
Washington, and it won't create one here either.

As a former attorney general of Vermont and a representative of Law 
Enforcement Against Prohibition, I am committed to bringing awareness 
to the failures of marijuana prohibition and working toward a safer 
Vermont. Police will continue to play an important role in marijuana 
policy, but our policy should be directed by a comprehensive plan. We 
can use our public safety resources more effectively and keep kids 
away from drugs by implementing a common-sense policy to regulate 
marijuana. We can't expect a different result by doing the same 
failed action over again. The only hope lies in a fundamentally 
different approach; without further delay, the Vermont Legislature 
should move forward with plans to regulate marijuana in 2016.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom