Thursday, January 21, 2016

Sheriff Keith Clark Says "Legalize Marijuana"

I was reading an article on (Brattleboro, Vermont's newspaper).

I was pleased to see that the Sheriff of Windham County in Vermont was speaking to lawmakers about marijuana legalization and saying all the right things.

From the article:

"By eliminating the prohibition on marijuana and the need to utilize funding for enforcing a failed policy, we as a state can focus on what is important," said Clark on Jan. 21 in the Vermont Legislature. "We will have more resources and can focus on those whom are addicted to any substance, whether it is heroin, alcohol or marijuana. We can also put our efforts into educating our children in a more realistic way. Furthermore, we can be more effective in keeping our highways safe for all users."

He did indicate that it shouldn't be legalized until 2018 which in my opinion is too far away. He said it was because police would need time for training and developing programming.

Sheriff Clark went on to say (from the article):

"Furthermore, it provides time for government agencies, public, private and nonprofit companies to develop and vet policies as they relate to work environment and employment conditions," he said.

Pushing the date out to 2018 gives the legislature to establish rules for retail sale etc.

As a cannabis activist I have to say the most important thing about legalizing is ending the arrests. Stop arresting people first, work out the details later.

He goes on to say (from the article):

"Towns and cities should have the ability to locally control places and times of sale as well as public use," he said. "This would be consistent with liquor laws wherein towns have a local liquor control board and the ability to have ordinances about open containers and public consumption."

Again, this is not the best way to approach legalization. There should not be a agents and agencies in each town in the state to decide what they're going to do about marijuana.

If there are rules against indoor tobacco, then businesses should have the option of becoming a private club and charging a membership fee to ensure people who are there, putting themselves in a room full of secondhand smoke do so knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily.

The Sheriff compared marijuana legalization to gay marriage (from the article):

"Not unlike Vermont's change to allow gay marriage, there will be those who believe the change will only result in catastrophic outcomes," he said. "When Vermont takes the bold step to legalize marijuana, I will be as proud as I was on the day I walked my daughter down the aisle when she married her wife."

I think this is good. We need to let consensual adults interact with each other however they want, whether it is two people passing a joint, or two dudes getting married, if everyone does so voluntarily without coercion, then there is no reason for police, courts, or lawmakers to get involved.

Sheriff Clark said that he spoke with police in Colorado recently after marijuana was legalized there (from the article):

"He said his officers and others in the area are making more DUI drug arrests," Clark said. "He did not believe there was an increase in the number of people using marijuana and driving, but the officers were now more focused and had received better training on the operator's ability to operate safely. According to him, he anticipated many problems associated with the legalization, but to date they have not materialized."

I don't like seeing an increase in marijuana DUI arrests, there was an interesting article on recently explaining the details of stoned driving. Consuming cannabis does not cause increased risk of crash among veteran smokers.

Here is what the article on said:

Using a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial, a study published in the March issue of Journal of Psychoactive Drugs reported that drivers performed the same after smoking marijuana as they did at baseline on every single task. The only difference found was that “Participants receiving active marijuana decreased their speed more so than those receiving the placebo cigarette during a distracted section of the drive” and “No other changes in driving performance were found.”

Excessive speed is one of the major causes of auto accidents. Since the study found that use of marijuana did not affect any other driving ability, then marijuana, which leads drivers to reduce their speed without interfering with any other measure of driver performance, can potentially reduce the likelihood of having an accident.
Lawmakers in Vermont were considering S.95 and S.241 recently, both related to changing marijuana laws.

From the article:
S.95, "An act relating to regulation and taxation of marijuana," and S.241, "An act relating to personal possession and cultivation of cannabis and the regulation of commercial cannabis establishments," were up for discussion before the committee all this week.

Sheriff Clark supported the effort to legalize marijuana for folks 21 years of age or older.

He had this to say (from the article):

"The so-called War on Drugs has not made our communities and highways safer," testified Clark. "In many ways, prohibition has created a system that has caused more harm than good."

I like that he said that prohibition creates a system that causes more harm than good. I also like how he uses the words "not safer" to describe the effect marijuana prohibition has on our society.

The sheriff of Windham county went on to say that (from the article):

prohibition has created an illicit market in which dealers can take advantage of their clients and also allows "unscrupulous dealers to sell to children."

"By legalizing marijuana, the state and local governments will have control of the market ... and we will have the support of licensed cultivators and sellers in keeping the black market dealers out of the state and away from our children."

The article quotes Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell

"The substance and sincerity of his statement to the Judiciary Committee being among them. I have stated my belief that marijuana will eventually be legalized in Vermont and my hope that a reasoned regulatory structure will be established to responsibly allow for its legal possession and use."

I'm kind of uncomfortable with some of the words here. Again, regulation should not be the focus, liberation should be the focus. Adults should be allowed to grow and share marijuana.

The article talked about the difference between the Windham County Sheriff and the Brattleboro Police Chief.

While the county sheriff thinks marijuana should be legalized by around 2018, the city police chief believes lawmakers should drag their feet turning legalization into a 10+ year ordeal.

From the article:

Brattleboro Police Chief Michael Fitzgerald said "They should have the discussion now, talk to some of the states that have legalized," said Fitzgerald. "This is going to take years. We are not going to get good data in just a year."

The City Police Chief went on to say (from the article):
"While we may want to talk about legalizing marijuana, we need at least 10 years of data and research before the Legislature can come to a well-rounded, thought-out conclusion on how this is going to impact our community. Don't make it legal first and then try to figure out how to deal with it after."

Then Brattleboro Newspaper included the perspective of a leader of an anti-marijuana group in Vermont known as "Smart Approaches To Marijuana" (abbreviated SAM-VT).

Debby Haskins from SAM-VT had this to say (from the article):

"There was a lot of great testimony from both sides. But I believe it is the wrong thing to do for all Vermonters."

Debby said a lot of things that don't make any sense and cause me to wonder who is paying her to go around saying this stuff?

From the article:

"I understand that many people can use marijuana and alcohol and it's not a problem," she said. "But there are plenty of people who use marijuana who are addicted or have mental health issues. Their families and their communities are impacted. Legalizing marijuana is not going to make us a healthier state, it's not going to make our kids healthier or safer and it's not going to make parents better parents."

Actually, that is kind of the main thing I always say "Legalizing marijuana will make our communities Safer."

So I disagree with Debby Haskins and I hope she struggles to find gas money to drive herself to the capitol the next time lawmakers are discussing this issue.

The article included the perspective of a person who works as a drug counselor. Guess what, the person who makes money by counseling folks who have been forced into counseling after caught by police with marijuana opposes legalization, I never would've expected that!

from the article:

Dr. Nels Closter, who operates Hawthorne Recovery in Bennington and Habit OPCO, the methadone clinic in Brattleboro, also testified on Thursday.

"I suggested the Legislature consider the sacrifices against the benefits," said Kloster, with a focus on the difference between those who abuse marijuana and those who just use it. "About 20 percent of those who use marijuana are dependent or addicted. They account for two-thirds of the use days and about 80 percent of the marijuana that is consumed. Legalization is for the benefit of those who have controlled usage and not for those who abuse. The harm to the abusers is greater than the pleasure for controlled users."

This ridiculousness is pulled out of her ass. It is contrary to the founding principles of this country which include things like "freedom is better than security". Saying that folks who can handle their weed should be subject to arrest because some people can't handle their weed is a very silly thing for an adult to be saying. Either she is stupid, or she thinks everyone in the audience is stupid enough to buy her counseling-career-justifying-bullshit.

The article points out how this counselor feels legalization should be a slow process because we need to see what happens now that marijuana is legal.

"Research takes time," he said. "We need a broad spectrum to make better decisions and make sure the resources are in place if we do make it legal. There needs to be a really thorough process around it."

This is more of the same bullshit we've been hearing from the opposition for years. Anti pot folks have been saying we need to study marijuana to see how bad it is before we determine our approach. This is untrue, marijuana does not need to be studied to determine the degree to which it should be considered hazardous. That study has already been done, it is called the Schaffer Commission and Richard Nixon ignored the advice of experts who told him to legalize marijuana around 40 years ago. One thing we can be certain of is that marijuana is extremely safe especially considering there is no lethal dose.

Another drug counselor, Cassandra Holloway, who makes money when police force people to take classes from her said (from the article):

"Our children are hearing that marijuana use is safe, healthy and fun for them to use and this perception will lead to increased youth use. There is not enough effective funding currently for preventing and regulating tobacco and alcohol and here we are considering another drug to legalize."

Again, more untrue stuff being said by anti-marijuana drug counselors. Tobacco education measures are actually working really well to reduce teen use.

This is from a Fact Sheet generated by Campaign For Tobacco Free Kids:

The scientific evidence is substantial and clear: public education campaigns reduce the number of youth who start smoking, increase the number of smokers who quit, and make tobacco industry marketing less effective, saving lives and health care dollars.

The article also included the perspective of the Governor who supports legalization but only if it can meet these 5 goals:

  1. Keep marijuana away from minors
  2. Keep taxes low to lure people out of the black market
  3. Fund prevention programs
  4. Devise stronger laws against driving under the influence
  5. Don't legalize edibles until research can help determine appropriate regulations

I don't like the first one because we've seen that many kids benefit from the use of cannabis, to the point where kids who basically couldn't participate in many basic family activities are suddenly functional after using cannabis. 

I do like number 2 because marijuana taxes should be very low. Alcohol taxes are high because we need to take in money to pay people to scrape dead bodies off the road. Legalizing marijuana will actually lead to a reduction in alcohol use, and replacing alcohol with marijuana means less scraping.

Number 3 will probably lead to the creation of anti-marijuana propaganda, but if people use cannabis they will see that much of the anti-pot stuff we see in the media is bullshit.

Number 4 seems to think we need to look out for folks who drive after consuming cannabis, which (as we saw in the article) is not true.

Number 5 is more bullcrap regarding research. The only research people need to do is try a very small amount of cannabis edible if it is their first time. They can eat a larger piece of edible their second time if they think they can handle it. Cannabis edibles should be treated like skiing or snowboarding, start on the bunny slopes until your ready for the bigger, steeper slopes.

Windham County Senator Jeanette White is leading the way among Vermont Lawmakers and sponsoring bills that would change the law regarding adult use of marijuana. She had this to say (from the article):

"Most Vermonters have made a reasoned decision on how we should regulate adult use of marijuana and most are in favor of it."

She also disagreed with folks who say we should go slow and do studies. She said for anti-pot folks there will never be enough data.

Senator Jeanette kind of agreed with me in that the focus should be on liberation, not regulation (from the article):

"People who smoke or grow marijuana want to become law-abiding citizens."

The Journalist who put this together for the Brattleboro Reformer is Bob Audette, he can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext. 160.

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