Pubdate: Wed, 30 Mar 2016
Source: Rutland Herald (VT)
Copyright: 2016 Rutland Herald
Author: Al Boright
Note: Al Boright is a humorist, playwright and musician who worked as 
legislative council for 31 years before retiring at the end of 2008.


Before, during and after my 31 years working for the Legislature, I 
have always thought that the pot prohibition was Vermont's worst law. 
By far. No competition.

Pot prohibition was first adopted in the 1930s, based upon a 
nonscientific and highly distorted view of the dangers of pot, as 
characterized by the then-current, hilariously campy, pot-phobic 
movie "Reefer Madness." Through the years, penalties for lesser pot 
offenses in Vermont have decreased to the point where possession of 
one ounce or less is only a civil violation, but we've always 
retained a schizophrenic strictness around the fringes and throughout 
the supply chain: an ever-present bow to the craziness enthroned by 
"Reefer Madness." (Selling 50 pounds of pot may bring a penalty of 30 
years, which is 10 years stiffer than the minimum levied for 
second-degree murder.

That's crazy.)

Let's consider an example: Suppose a person possesses three ounces of 
pot for a year. The penalty for an instance of possessing more than 
two ounces of pot may include jail time up to three years.

If fully prosecuted and penalized for the number of days in a year 
(365), the person would run up potential jail time of 1,095 years 
whether or not he ever had a puff of the stuff.

That equals 31 first degree murderers at 35 years of minimum time 
owed per pop. If an otherwise productive and presumably law abiding 
Woodstock-era model citizen/fogey followed this course of conduct for 
50 years, he would have committed crimes punishable by jail time 
amounting to about 54,750 years, which equals time faced by, plus or 
minus, 1,550 convicted first-degree murderers.

Holy smokes, Batman! It's not the pot smoker that's stark raving mad, 
it's the pot prohibition! Particularly, when you consider: the 
billions of dollars funneled to the mob/drug cartels; the truly 
dangerous drugs that may become available through underworld 
providers because of the gateway to that culture that prohibition 
creates; the existing system's failure to keep pot out of the hands 
of children; the drag on medical research into the many likely 
beneficial effects of cannabis; the systemic violations of a 
meaningful right to privacy; the incongruity in a "free" society of 
police state-like helicopter surveillance; the racially 
discriminatory enforcement; the financial and societal costs of 
ill-conceived incarceration; the squandering of law enforcement and 
judicial resources; the unrealized economic potential of pot as a 
thoughtfully regulated, locally grown, commercial product; the public 
safety enhancements that competitive entrepreneurs are sure to 
develop in a legalized environment; the advantages of treatment over 
incarceration as a way of combating dependencies; the tax revenue 
foregone; and the simple fact that the pot prohibition has not worked.

But what about the lack of a reliable breath test for pot 
intoxication? In fact, prohibition has made it tougher for society to 
be well informed about the character and duration of the pot high. 
With alcohol, people have come to know a rule of thumb: "if you weigh 
Y pounds, you should be fine if you don't drink more than X beers per 
hour." But has anybody determined the nature and duration of the pot 
buzz, or of the combined pot/alcohol buzz? If a smoker waits two 
hours, do capacities return?

Five hours?

Who knows?

Nobody raised their hand because it's illegal.

We've already got 80,000 pot consumers in Vermont who might someday 
drive while intoxicated. Although the "Just say no" approach has 
failed to provide us a solution, we don't yet have the advantages of 
any science-based, safety-related, pot consumption rules of thumb 
that might be developed under a regime of thoughtful legalization and 
that might facilitate informed self regulation and responsible restraint.

I'm not an advocate of pot smoking.

Inhaling any kind of smoke seems a bad idea. But the Declaration of 
Independence states that we are endowed by our creator with 
"inalienable rights," which include the "pursuit of happiness." And 
your right to pursue happiness shouldn't be limited to whatever 
activities make me happy.

Within reasonable bounds, different folks have an inalienable right 
to pursue different strokes. That is how freedom is defined: the 
power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance 
or restraint.

And how robust is the freedom that Vermont's vets have been long 
asked to be willing to die for, even after passage of almost 50 years 
since Woodstock? The members of the House, by passing legislation no 
more restrictive than the Senate's, can provide at least 80,000 
Vermonters with a piece of that freedom that long has been missing in 
action. I fully believe that remaining pot problems can be best 
addressed by building upon a foundation of freedom and legalization. 
We've waited far too long to fix this. Let freedom ring. Let my people grow.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom