By Guy Page
The Governor’s Advisory Commission on Marijuana may recommend zero legal tolerance for smoking marijuana and driving due to the lack of a reliable roadside impairment test. It fears the black market will continue even if regulated cultivation and sale are legalized. And it recognizes legalization could impact the growing practice among teens of “juuling” nicotine and marijuana.
These three concerns and five others were highlighted in a July 1 status report. The Legislature is expected to consider regulated cultivation and sale of marijuana in the 2019 session. A lengthy excerpt from the status report by co-chairs Tom Little and Jake Perkinson is printed below, with minor edits for brevity:
“The Commission is now in the process of developing recommendations [by December 15, 2018] for a viable, safe and efficient regulated cannabis market that does not increase burdens on the State and ameliorates potential harm to the public.
And while no final recommendations have been crafted at this time, the Commission believes it is useful to note some of the subject matter areas:
- Challenges associated with the federal prohibition and classification as a Schedule 1 drug of cannabis, including access to banking, insurance and other regulated business services.
- Youth issues including education, prevention and addressing the increasing incidences and popularity of “juuling” and vaping among school aged children. Juuling is inhaling nicotine or marijuana through a device that looks like a thumb drive.
- Health issues such as novel delivery formulations and the combination of cannabis with nicotine and/or other substances.
- Issues about regulating the size or form of cannabis businesses and how the State will engage with any cannabis industry created by statute.
- Local control and costs, particularly with regard to zoning, permitting, prohibition and public safety.
- Highway safety issues including the possibility of adopting a zero tolerance policy in the face of challenges to available roadside testing methods.
- Effectively eliminating the black market in an environment of varying state laws that will continue to lure elicit trade in cannabis by providing opportunities to profit from illegal sales and practices and recognition of the serious environmental hazards that can be expected to be created by illegal and unregulated cannabis cultivation; and
- The need to develop a comprehensive assessment of the true costs to Vermont and its citizens that will attend the creation of a taxed and regulated cannabis market, including the increased need for education, youth prevention strategies and programs, public safety resources on the state and local level, and the costs of creating the systems necessary to regulate and enforce any new regulatory scheme.
Once these costs are identified, any taxation plan must be balanced against the reality that taxation of a legalized product must not be so onerous as to drive consumers to illicit markets and that resources to prosecute actors operating outside prescribed laws are available and applied.”
Statehouse Headliners is intended primarily to educate, not advocate. It is e-mailed to an ever-growing list of interested Vermonters, public officials and media. Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership; the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare; and Physicians, Families and Friends for a Better Vermont.