Statehouse Headliners: The social price of pot, a trade war could impact Vermont, and new efficiency law a money saver

By Guy Page

Legalization and commercial sale of marijuana in Vermont would see more mental illness, including schizophrenia, requiring an estimated $4.9 – $11 million in treatment costs. These costs would offset the estimated $7.4 million in revenue.

These findings appear in a White Paper, “Marijuana in Vermont and the Increased Burden of Schizophrenia,” co-authored by Dr. Christine Miller, a pharmacologist specializing in neuroscience, and released in 2016 by Smart Approaches to Marijuana in Vermont (SAM-VT). The study does not monetize additional known societal impacts, including treatment for physical health problems, property crime, DUI enforcement and accidents, law enforcement needed for increased black market cultivation and sales, and academic and employee performance.

“Any so-called benefits of legalizing marijuana are far outweighed by the costs,” Dr. Miller said. “Vermont’s human services system is already overwhelmed, and legalization will certainly only increase the burden.”

Other legalized drugs also take far more from the U.S. economy than they give. Alcohol revenues total $14 billion but drain $185 billion from the economy. Tobacco generates $25 billion but costs our economy $200 billion, according to SAM. Efforts to reduce this disparity are resisted by a powerful industry lobby warning that higher taxes will boost sales of untaxed, unregulated black market product. And with marijuana, anyway, the lobbyists are right. Mexican drug cartels have targeted “legal” states like Colorado and California as attractive sites for large-scale black market marijuana cultivation, transportation and sale. Overwhelmed police pushed hard for a new law this year, hoping it will slow down the runaway growth of black market cultivation.

Pot-related veterinarian bills could rise, too – dogs poisoned after eating pot-laced human waste

In another unexpected, potentially expensive marijuana health threat, the April 12 Shelburne News reports that four dogs suffered marijuana toxicity, most likely after eating human feces tainted with residue of edible marijuana. The four dogs took ill after walking with their owners on Mt. Philo in Charlotte. All four survived, but were found to have traces of edible marijuana and human feces in their digestive systems.

One in four 12th graders – Vermont’s future work force – more likely to smoke pot if it is legal

As the low unemployment numbers below suggest, Vermont faces a crisis of lack of workers. High school graduates without drug problems are an essential part of any solution to this problem. SAM also reported this month that that one in four U.S. 12th graders will be more likely to smoke marijuana if it is legalized. So much for the “they’re all doing it anyway” argument for legalization.

Canada is Vermont’s #1 import/export partner – how would trade war affect us?

As U.S. President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau squabble over possible tariffs, Vermonters wonder how a trade war might affect our state’s economy.

Vermont has a dog in this hunt. Canada is by far Vermont’s largest international import and export trading partner. And, for every dollar Canada pays us for our exported goods, we pay them $2.3 in imports.

According to U.S. government statistics, 39 percent of all Vermont exported goods in 2017, just over $1 billion in sales, went to Canada. Yet those figures were down slightly, from 47 percent in 2014 and 40 percent in 2016. Canada provided 78 percent of all Vermont imported goods in 2014, decreasing steadily to 65 percent in 2017 ($2.3 billion).

Electronic integrated circuits and associated products ranked first in both Vermont exports (53 percent) and imports (15 percent) in 2017. No other exports claimed more than a 2.5 percent share. The import of electricity – mostly Quebec hydropower – ranked second, at 14.8 percent, up 9 percent from 2016. Overall, imports were down about 9 percent.

It is unclear how a trade war would affect exports of integrated circuits. In a U.S. – Canada trade war played out on the electricity supply battlefield, both sides have much to gain and lose.

Vermont’s power purchase agreement with Hydro-Quebec features some price variability or “buffering” for market conditions, which presumably could include a trade war. Also, New England faces a potential electricity shortfall during lengthy periods of cold winter weather. However, Canada is determined to export surplus electricity. Its only customer is the United States, because electricity cannot profitably be exported overseas. By contrast, the U.S. has long term domestic energy alternatives, such as renewables, nuclear, coal, oil and gas.

Finally, some Vermont craft beers manufacturers worry tariffs on imported aluminum and steel will force them to charge more for beer sold in aluminum cans and steel kegs, Vermont Public Radio reported.

Minority unemployment down in Vermont, too

President Trump and his economic advisors often claim the surging American economy has resulted in record low unemployment rates for blacks and Hispanics. Is this also true in Vermont?

While state labor officials caution that Vermont has too few minority residents to measure employment by specific ethnic group/ White people comprise about 95 percent of the population. But VT Dept. of Labor figures show non-whites are benefiting from the state’s very low unemployment rates.

Statistics from the Current Population Survey for “all races” – white, black, Hispanic, Native Americans, Asian, and every other ethnic group – show April unemployment of 3.4 percent in 2016, 3.4 percent in 2017, and 2.9 percent in 2018. Statistics for “whites only” show April totals of 3.4 percent in 2016, 3.4 percent in 2017, and 2.8 percent in 2018.

While the April, 2018 figures show unemployment a tenth of one percent higher for “all races” than “whites only”, state officials noted that even this slight difference could be due to statistical “rounding.” It is clear however than unemployment for “all races” was five-tenths of one percent lower than April 2016 and 2017.

It’s reasonable to infer from these statistics that while white Vermonters may have the lowest measurable unemployment rate among the state’s ethnic groups, all ethnic groups of Vermonters are experiencing lower unemployment since 2016.

Vermont Yankee buyer predicts spent fuel in Vernon could leave Vermont by 2030

NorthStar, the company that wants to buy and decommission Vermont Yankee, told federal regulators last month that it believes the spent nuclear fuel now stored in dry casks at Vermont Yankee will probably be moved out-of-state by 2030 – less than 12 years from now. Specifically NorthStar told the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission: “NorthStar projects that an off-site interim storage option will be available by no later than the mid-2020s, and therefore, it should be able to remove the irradiated fuel from VY by no later than 2030.”

Both the State of Vermont and NorthStar have close ties with a low-level waste storage facility in Texas, which could become the site for a high-level waste interim storage facility.

The sale of the plant to NorthStar is pending final approval by the NRC and the Vermont Public Utilities Commission. Their decisions are expected by late summer.

New law provides energy efficiency freedom, savings for eligible companies

In recent years, energy efficiency-compliant companies have complained of having to pay high annual fees to Efficiency Vermont even after making expensive energy conservation investments. Act 150, approved by the 2018 Legislature, attempts to save money for companies who are meeting their energy efficiency goals.

For example: a June 9 press release by Gov. Phil Scott reports that between 2010 and 2017 paper manufacturer West Rock in Sheldon, employer of 150 workers, contributed $2.5 million into the state electric efficiency fund and received only 23 percent of its contributions back as grants to invest in electrical efficiency projects.

Act 150 allows some eligible companies to manage and fund their own efficiency programs, provided they meet conservation targets. A similar program has been in effect for several years at Global Foundries in Essex Junction.

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.

Image courtesy of Michael Bielawski/TNR

4 thoughts on “Statehouse Headliners: The social price of pot, a trade war could impact Vermont, and new efficiency law a money saver

  1. The Progressive push to legalize marijuana, not for medicinal purposes, but purely for recreational use has two major driving forces behind it, one obvious, money; the other an under the table, subtle and deceptive but no less convenient win-win for them. You probably won’t see this one coming.

    Progressives want fewer cars on the roads. They want fewer people driving those fewer vehicles. They’re deep into the initiative in Burlington having exchanged 4 lane roads for 3, 3 lane roads for 2, squeezing traffic lanes narrower with the addition of bicycle lanes or outright sharing single lane vehicular traffic with bicycles, which have equal rights to that single lane previously reserved for cars, trucks and buses (but not excluding bicycles). Further, on street parking spots are disappearing faster than you can count, sidewalk bump outs are further narrowing streets and reducing parking avaiability, and bump outs at intersections choke traffic flow as vehicles try to turn onto side streets. The intended consequences – traffic back ups, frustration, road rage incidents, parking violations, blocked driveways, towed vehicles, all designed to subconsciously induce people to exchange their vehicles for walking or biking.
    Far be it from Progressives to ask the public what they want when they can manipulate them instead.

    What’s the connection with pot?
    Have a beer, shot of bourbon or glass of wine on the weekends and most people can drive legally in an hour. Smoke a joint on the weekends and the THC metabolites stay bound in your body’s fat stores for up to a month. No driving legally for you! Though “drugged” driving standards are still murky in VT some legislators favor prosecuting those who have any presence of the active ingredient detectable in their systems, whether this amount causes impaired driving or not.

    LT Gov Zuckerman promoted legalization which he said would attract skiers to VT. Would he have them drive here from out of state, buy pot legally in VT, ski, then be stuck for 30 days while their “high times” exhuberance washes out ?

    The bottom line is that as soon as marijuana legislation was passed in VT, the issue of driving under the influence rose to prominence. When thinking of VT liberalizing it’s pot laws, think of VT eliminating freedoms to operate a motor vehicle.

    • Jeffrey,
      Did you distribute your writings before the law was signed?
      What you wrote is news to me and likely to others.

  2. This lady is either a kook or makes a profit off of the illegality of cannabis. If you don’t believe me take a look at an excerpt of her “marijuana myths” paper:

    “Finnish subjects showed that it was not LSD, amphetamine, cocaine, methamphet- amine, PCP or opiates that most consistently led to a diagnosis of long term schizophrenia, it was marijuana.4 Thus, if you lace your LSD with marijuana, you are more likely to go psychotic.”

    For one she uses the racist term for cannabis, “marijuana” a term and spelling to demonize Mexicans. Regardless if this woman is a racist or not, she is supposed to be a professional with a PhD and claims that cannabis, a plant that has been shown to have medicinal effects is more apt to cause schizophrenia than LSD, Meth, Coke, PCP, or Heroine!

    This is nothin but fear propaganda, like worse than a b rated movie “bad” propaganda.

    I know someone… not know a friend who knows a friend but, actually know someone who had a scene after smoking cannabis they received on the black market; it turned out to be laced with PCP. So I’m to believe that it was the cannabis and not the PCP that caused the episode?

    This is an outrageous and asinine hit piece. Conservatives are supposed to protect individual liberties not make up falsities to protect themselves from non threats.

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