Pubdate: Thu, 14 Apr 2016
Source: Rutland Herald (VT)
Copyright: 2016 Rutland Herald
Author: Mia Feroleto
Note: Mia Feroleto is a resident of Ludlow.


Last Thursday evening, I chaired the first meeting of the newly 
formed Vermont chapter of Women Grow. For those who are not familiar 
with Women Grow, it is perhaps the fastest-growing organization in 
the cannabis industry and was profiled in a Newsweek magazine cover 
story from September 2015 that gives an overview of women taking over 
the billion-dollar cannabis industry.

Frustrations in the room were being shared that Vermonters are not 
able at this time to consume, grow and build businesses around the 
cannabis industry, except for the rare few.

The weather this winter has been relatively mild with heating prices 
down as an enormous blessing. Even so, countless Vermonters are 
scraping by with lower incomes than usual due to their dependency on 
snow-based work for their livelihood.

With a population of approximately 630,000, we need to take advantage 
of whatever economic opportunities we have. Surrounding states have 
far more people and land, making it harder for us to compete. 
Massachusetts will legalize cannabis by the end of this year, and 
other New England states will be right behind.

Gov. Peter Shumlin put forth in his State of the State address in 
January his support of legalizing cannabis in Vermont. The majority 
of Vermonters are in favor of legalization, and countless people 
would prefer a few puffs of a joint rather than a drink.

My personal amusement comes from the fact that, as anyone familiar 
with cannabis knows, little will actually change within the state of 
Vermont once legalized. The same people who consume cannabis now will 
be consuming cannabis after legislation is passed. Our focus needs to 
be on educating and empowering the state to ensure our youth are 
informed with parental guidance and school support. I suspect that 
the same number of teens will be smoking pot once it is legal as 
there are right now when it is illegal.

At the Women Grow meeting, we discussed how we as a relatively large 
network of cannabis supporters within Vermont could make a statement 
in support of the plant. We could protest as did and get 
arrested for smoking pot in front of the State House in Montpelier, 
or we can vote with our pocketbooks. One suggestion was to put out 
the word that we would not purchase alcohol until the time 
recreational cannabis is legal, too. We need to come up with a plan 
and implement it. The Montgomery bus boycott went on for over a year, 
but it was effective.

Now is the time to send a clear message to our elected officials that 
the majority of Vermonters want legalization. We are in no danger of 
"reefer madness" or much of anything actually changing at all. And if 
you don't believe me, then I suggest you spend a few thousand hours 
doing the research that I have done so that you are at least informed.

In early February, 1,300 women flew to Denver, Colo., to attend the 
Women Grow conference. That number represents lots of dinners and 
hotel reservations and countless other ways that new and additional 
revenue streams found their way into Colorado. I look forward to the 
day when we can plan a Women Grow conference at one of the Vermont 
ski resorts that attract hundreds of thousands of tourists each year 
to our beautiful state. But until legalization is passed, Vermont 
will not benefit from the billion-dollar cannabis industry to the 
extent that it could and should.

To delay cannabis legalization any longer is just plain foolish. And 
I have not even mentioned the importance of industrial hemp to 
Vermont's economy. Please let us restore the cannabis plant to its 
rightful position within American and Vermont life.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom