On Town Meeting Day, the Town of Middlebury will vote on whether to allow retail sales of marijuana. It will be the first municipality in Vermont to do so, a process that is expected to be rolled out statewide.
Gov. Phil Scott signed into law this October a bill that establishes a regulated market for the commercial sale of pot beginning in October, 2022. One of the provisions of the bill is that municipal voters must authorize the establishment of retail shops through what is termed an “opt-in” clause.
The clause is seen as an annoyance to some, a procedure that will slow the roll-out of pot sales — and hence revenue — throughout the state. Medical dispensaries are already legal. Vermonters can grow about as much pot as they would like. And possession has been decriminalized.
Why not open the gates and let whomever wants set up shop?
Because the shops we choose to have in our midst define our community. There will be towns in Vermont that don’t want to be defined by pot shops; particularly our smaller towns and villages. They should have the option to make that choice. What works for Middlebury might not work for Franklin, or St. Albans, or Swanton, as an example.
If that reduces marijuana sales in Vermont, so be it. We’re a small state, the next town over isn’t that far. And, despite the advocates’ best efforts to distort the advantages, we also know not to expect pot sales to float us to new levels of prosperity.
It will be interesting to see how Franklin County responds to the “opportunity.” We’re a more conservative county than Addison, Chittenden and Lamoille. We’re also a touch more libertarian; hence, not that excited about people telling us what we can and can’t do.
How that plays out is anyone’s guess. What we know is that the choice is ours and that it’s coming. It’s best to consider our options, including how the addition of these new retail establishments changes how we are perceived, and how we perceive ourselves.
There is also the community health consideration. This is not your parents’ weed. It is much more powerful and it’s being consumed in ways your parents could not imagine. The medical and mental health communities have been warning about the drug’s effects on anxiety, depression and its deleterious effects on the brains of those under the age of 30.
Earlier this year the American Heart Association [AHS] issued a new scientific assessment of pot saying it “…recommends that people not smoke or vape any substance, including cannabis products, because of the potential harm to the heart, lungs and blood vessels.”
The AHS made the point that heart disease is the number one cause of death and that those with heart disease are more likely to be adversely affected by pot smoking than those who don’t have heart disease.
What is bizarre is that despite the change in our laws allowing its use, the short and long term effects of marijuana aren’t really understood. That’s because marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, which limits dramatically the amount of money that can be spent on researching its effects. That’s nuts.
So, yes, as each of Vermont’s communities weigh the pros and cons of allowing pot shops to operate in our municipalities, it’s also important to consider just what we’re inviting into our lives as a matter of public health.
by Emerson Lynn