Pubdate: Sat, 02 Apr 2016
Source: Brattleboro Reformer (VT)
Copyright: 2016 The Associated Press


MONTPELIER (AP) - Vermont lawmakers heard differing views Thursday on 
a bill to legalize marijuana, although a majority of those who 
testified before legislative committees said they support the measure.

"I'm a normal, nonpsychotic guy," said Bruce Kimball of Essex. "I 
consider myself a law-abiding citizen, but my use of pot over the 
years has made me an outlaw. Do I like that? No. ... What I would 
like is the option to purchase pot from a safe, regulated, 
well-maintained dispensary."

He was one of several people testifying at the hearing who sought to 
emphasize the normalcy of their lives - families, jobs, community 
service - despite regular marijuana use.

The House Judiciary and Government Operations committees heard 
testimony on a Senate-passed bill to legalize possession of up to an 
ounce of marijuana for people 21 and older. Sign-up sheets for those 
testifying showed 34 favored legalization, 19 opposed and five were 
undecided. The bill also envisions a system of licensed growers and retailers.

Some of those who opposed the bill said they weren't opposed to 
legalization but were concerned it would keep homegrown marijuana 
illegal and set up fees and other requirements favoring big business 
over small farmers and entrepreneurs.

Emily Amanna, who operates a small farm in the southern Vermont town 
of Athens, said she and other small farmers had hoped marijuana would 
be a cash crop that could help support often marginal operations. But 
Senate Bill 241, as currently written, would "take a 
multi-million-dollar industry out of the hands of good, hardworking 
Vermonters," she said, and put it in the hands of a "corporatized, 
monopolized industry."

Among other opponents, a doctor and a psychotherapist testified about 
the dangers of marijuana to brain development in young people, and 
studies linking it to the onset of mental illness.

Catherine Antley, a Burlington physician, told the committees that 
Colorado has seen an 8 percent increase in the number of 12- to 
17-year-olds using marijuana in the first year after that state 
legalized pot. She said one study found that those people who begin 
using the drug heavily in adolescence dropped an average 8 percent in 
performance on IQ tests by the time they became adults.

Some of those testifying said marijuana legalization could help 
dampen demand for heroin and other opioids, which President Barack 
Obama this week labeled an epidemic.

Maria D'Haene, a clinical social worker from Barre Town, told 
lawmakers she had seen opiate-addicted clients switch to marijuana 
and see big improvements in their lives. Opiate users are more likely 
to lose their children to state custody than marijuana users are, she said.

House Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Maxine Grad, a Moretown 
Democrat, says the panel hopes to finish its work on the bill next 
week. She says it's unclear whether the committee will vote to 
support the measure.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom