Rep Steve Vaillancourt



Monday
Mar022015

Colorado Banks $76 Million On Marijuana In Year One

Bloomberg News, my go to source for all real unbiased news these days, is reporting today that Colorado, in its first year of legalized marijuana, took in $63 million in taxes and another $13 million in fees based on sales of just under $700 million.  I'd elaborate, but I'm at the Bixby Memorial Library in Vergennes, Vermont, and a man on the computer next to me appears to be in the process of wheezing himself into a fit.  It's too much to take (and the internet from my brother's neighbor appears to be down), so in lieu of reporting, I'll just copy the entire story here.
In watching Channel 3, Burlington (WCAX-TV) the other night, I saw Matt Simon of MPP discussing current efforts for legalization in the Green Mountain State.  Reporters seem to think progress will be made this year, but this won't be the year for full scale legalization.
Wanna bet...Vermont still beats New Hampshire into the realm of sanity.

2.8 Million Pot Munchies and Other Numbers From Colorado’s First Year of Retail Marijuana

The statewide population of pot plants grown for the retail market is only getting higher
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Colorado’s grand marijuana-retail experiment resulted in almost 20 tons of pot sold to recreational users in 2014.

It was the first year of legal recreational sales in the state, thus the first time a statewide retail market for marijuana could be quantified. Before Colorado, no government in the U.S. had ever allowed retail sales. The state had previously allowed medical pot, which has low taxes but requires a doctor’s note. Recreational marijuana sales, which became legal in January 2014, opened the doors to any buyer age 21 and over. Retail sales carry a heavy tax burden. Colorado collected $63 million in tax revenue and an additional $13 million in licenses and fees on $699 million of combined medical and recreational pot sales in 2014. 

To track and enforce the market—and to collect those lucrative taxes—Colorado required all growers and sellers to trace their product from seed to sale with canary-yellow RFID tags. A new report from the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division (PDF) provides the first glimpse of that data over a full year. The increasing market for recreational pot both complements and at times surpasses the state’s medical sales:

Growers weren’t allowed to cultivate plants exclusively for recreational use until January 2014. The expansion of the recreational pot supply has been explosive ever since, with about eight times more plants under cultivation at the end of 2014 than had been growing in January. Medical providers are still planting their supply at a steady pace, too, in a sign that retail pot hasn’t dramatically reduced the medical market. Last year, according to analysis by the Washington Post, medical sales in Colorado exceeded recreational sales by $75 million.

The data don’t show whether the medical dispensaries are serving the same customers or if some of the medical customers have shifted to recreational sellers. Regulators had hoped buyers on the black market and “patients” without true medical needs would become retail customers. The new rules tried to make retail sales so easy that recreational users wouldn’t obtain medical cards to evade the extra taxes. The stability of the medical market in Colorado has implications for other places, such as Washington state, where medical dispensaries have been resisting regulation, saying it would drive them out of business.

Instead of eroding medical sales, the recreational stores expanded the overall size of the legal market. By the end of the year, retail pot made up about a third of the market. In December, retail customers bought 4,949 pounds of bud, compared with 8,799 pounds of medical flower. All told, retailers sold almost 40,000 pounds of pot in 2014.

One market where retail stores have dominated medical dispensaries is the sale of marijuana-infused edible products, which include gummy bears, tapenade—and, yes, brownies. Sales of foods made with marijuana helped retail sales of edibles surpass those at medical dispensaries by April. By the end of 2014 the edible retail market had swollen to twice the size of the longer-established medical side of the business. It was, in fact, a busy Christmas shopping season for edible-pot vendors: December saw almost 360,000 marijuana-infused items sold across the state, making it the single busiest month of the year. Colorado says the trend “suggests that retail marijuana products are a viable product for retail consumers.” The report also notes that across almost 4,000 tests, more than 98 percent of the edibles complied with the limits on how potent they can be.

Even though the state legalized sales, cities in Colorado can still ban both medical and recreational pot. While many of the state’s large population centers, including Denver and Colorado Springs, allow both types of sales, more than three-quarters of localities ban recreational marijuana—a reminder of just how young this market still is.

Friday
Feb202015

Trivia--No Time To Worry....And Whither T.S.

Which famoud figure in American literature keeps repeating that now is not the time to worry?

 

A--Ishmael in Moby Dick by Herman Melville

B--The Reverend Dimmesdale in The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

C--T.S. Garp in The World According to Garp by John Irving

D--Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

E--Huck Finn in The Adventures of Huck Finn by Mark Twain

 

Hint--The line wasn't uttered in the movie, but it was an Academy Award winning performance.

Answer--The ever laid back Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck in the movie) kept saying that.  I didn't count the number of times, but I did note that the number was adding up.

Try this one.  What names are behind the T.S. in T.S. Garp.  

Beware, it's somewhat of a trick question.  The T.S. doesn't stand for any names.  It's simply the rank (technical sargent) or the dieing airman Garp's mother, Jenny Fields, used to impregnate herself in a rather typical Irvinian scene.  Garp is in the mid-range of my favorite Irving books, probably 7th or the 13 although it was certainly his breakthrough hit.  I remember being so into it during the mid-70s (when I was climbing the 4000 foot mountains in NH) that I lugged the paperback to a summit so I could keep reading it (it might have been Mt. Liberty...I'm not quite sure), but the T.S. is not for any name.  In the movie, Robin Williams as Garp says it's for "Terribly sexy" but I don't recall that being in the book.

Gregory Peck as Atticus No Time To Worry Finch and Robin Williams as Terriby Sex Grap.  Here's another bit of trivia; that's actually author John Irving in the acting role of referee.  (He also played a trainman in "The Cider House Rules", kind of like the Alfred Hitchcock of modern times).

Friday
Feb202015

Pot May Soon Be Legal For 1 Of 4 Americans

Bloomberg Business (Channel 203 on the Dish)   has become my go to source for news these days (I can no longer stomach Fox's extreme right wing bias, especially its constant trumpeting for more U.S. involvement in wars).

 

Bloomberg is reporting today that more than a quarter of Americans will soon live in states where marijuana is legal.  

 


This falls under the category of I told you so.  

 


Polls continue to show support for legalization across the nation. When people are allowed to decide at the polls, legalization happens, and it appears that another 11 states are moving toward legalization including Vermont (where I write this).  

 


I would prefer that New Hamphsire be in the forefront of the movement, as we were in the gay marriage struggle, but rest asssured, legalization is coming just like gay marriage was coming six years ago.

 


No matter how hard neanderthals like the Shawn The Accidental Speaker Jasper fight against it, legalization is coming.  

 


Jasper, of course, was a bitter opponent of gay marriage until the very end--talk about constantly being on the wrong side of history...has this troylodyte no shame? Apparently he's engaged in a conspiracy to keep pro legalization voices off the NH Criminal Justice Committee which gets first shot at the issue.   Go figure! 

trog·lo·dyte
ˈträɡləˌdīt/
noun
  
  1. (especially in prehistoric times) a person who lived in a cave.
    • a hermit.
    • a person who is regarded as being deliberately ignorant or old-fashioned.

Here's a link to the Bloomberg story...just out.

Friday
Feb202015

78 % Of Canadians Favor Death With Dignity Ruling

If you don't think people are ready for death with dignity, check out these numbers from Canada in response to a recent Supreme Court decision there.   More than three out of four Canadians favor the unanimous decision (9-0) which will allow (but not force) doctors to provide life ending medication to terminally ill patients.  Support crosses all spectrums of political opinion from 94 percent with Greens to 70 percent with Conservatives.  It's highest in Quebec with 84 percent; love those Quebecers!

Hey, I think I'll head up there tomorrow (albeit not to die, of course).

Wake up America; the time has come.

Most Canadians in favour of Court's Decision: poll

ottawa rally

According to a poll of 1,018 adults done by Forum Research Inc three days after the Supreme Court ruled on the Carter case:

  • More than three quarters approve of the ruling (78 per cent).
  • More than six out of 10 respondents would consider assisted dying for themselves if they had a grievous condition or were in intolerable pain.

Lorne Bozinoff, president of Forum Research Inc., said: "Canadians have been clear about their support for assistance in ending their lives since we began tracking it 4 years ago. The public was clear, but elected officials were loath to act. As in many cases of Canadian social advances, it required the Supreme Court to get the ball rolling." 

Support by age was highest among people under the age of 65. When comparing support levels by province, residents of Quebec topped the approvals at 84 per cent (compared to Alberta at 71 per cent).

Approval ratings for the decision among supporters of the major federal political parties is interesting:

  • Greens — 94 per cent support
  • NDP — 82 per cent
  • Liberals — 78 per cent
  • Bloc Quebecois — 76 per cent
  • Conservative — 70 per cent 

According to the pollster, the results have a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Friday
Feb202015

Canada Beats U.S. On Death With Dignity

It seems that our great neighbor to the North, Canada, has beaten the U.S. to the punch one again when it comes to one of my favoirte issues.

On the drive over from snowy New Hampshire to relatively snowless Vermont and Montreal, I heard this story on the radio.

The Canadian Suprime Court has given its Parliament only a year to craft acceptable right to die legilation.

This is an issue I've cared about nearly as much as gay marriage.

Canada beat U.S. to the punch to gay marriage (although we seem to be catching up), and now it appears Canada is going to leave us in the rear view mirror on this vital issue as well.  For anyone with a drop of libertarian blood, for anyone who claims to speak seriously about individual rights, what could be more important than the right to die with dignity?

Apparently we in the U.S. are way behind the rest of the civilized world.

We managed barely more than 50 votes in the New Hamphshire legislature last year on a bill that amounted to a very small step in the right direction, and now the three biggest right to die advocates (Rep. Joel Winters, Rep. Tim O'Flaherty, and I) are all gone.

Check out this good news from Canada, and never give up!

 

How Canada’s Right-to-Die Ruling Could Boost Movement in U.S.

Lee Carter embraces her husband Hollis Johnson while speaking to journalists at the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa on Feb. 6, 2015.Chris Wattie—ReutersLee Carter embraces her husband Hollis Johnson while speaking to journalists at the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa on Feb. 6, 2015.

Advocates say Supreme Court ruling could give momentum to U.S. states considering so-called 'death with dignity' bills

The Canadian Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision Friday that will allow physicians to provide life-ending medication to terminally ill patients.

The court ruled in part that banning a right to die in fact “deprives some individuals of life, as it has the effect of forcing some individuals to take their own lives prematurely, for fear that they would be incapable of doing so when they reached the point where suffering was intolerable.”

The groundbreaking 9-0 decision, which makes Canada one of just a handful of states to allow some form of “aid in dying,” comes as states in the U.S. consider allowing the practice for mentally competent patients with terminal illness. So-called death with dignity advocates said Friday that the decision by the U.S.’s northern neighbor could increase momentum across the border.

MORE: Death is Not Only for the Dying

“I think it will have a significant impact in the U.S.,” says Barbara Coombs-Lee, president of Compassion & Choices, a death with dignity advocacy group. “This isn’t happening in a far-off country. It sends a strong message throughout the continent.”

The “aid in dying” movements in Canada and the U.S. have similar histories. Both began around the late 1980s and early 1990s, and both have tried to achieve policy reforms through the courts and at the state or provincial level. But Friday’s Canadian court decision, which allows the practice nationwide, is a significant breakthrough for death with dignity advocates in Canada. It remains an unlikely scenario in the U.S., however, where reforms will likely come at a state level.

Peg Sandeen, executive director of the Death With Dignity National Center in the U.S., says she believes the court’s decision “will have a tremendous positive effect on a state-by-state level,” but that policy changes will continue to happen outside of Washington. The issue hasn’t gained much traction in Congress, and the Supreme Court isn’t likely to take up the issue anytime soon.

MORE: Why a Young Woman With Brain Cancer Moved to Oregon to Die

But there is considerable progress at the state level.

End-of-life practices are legal in Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington and Vermont, while legislation has been introduced in California, Colorado, Iowa, Pennsylvania and Wyoming, plus the District of Columbia. Coombs-Lee says it’s being considered in some form in 25 states.

The movement began making significant strides thanks to the widely publicized story of Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old newlywed with brain cancer who moved from California to Oregon, which is just one of five states that allow terminally ill patients to obtain life-ending medication.

One state that aid-in-dying advocates are currently watching closely is New York, where terminally ill patients recently filed a lawsuit that would allow the practice. State lawmakers are also reportedlyconsidering introducing a death with dignity bill. But any sort of movement in U.S. federal courts like what happened in Canada will likely only occur once there’s more progress at the state level.

“I think a federal constitutional protection could be acknowledged at some point,” says Coombs-Lee, “but only after there is already a critical mass of states where it is already authorized.”

The Canadian decision struck down laws that banned doctors from participating in ending a patient’s life and reversed an earlier Supreme Court ruling, saying that current bans violated rights of life, liberty and security as protected by the country’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Last year, Quebec passed right-to-die legislation, making it the only Canadian province to allow the practice.

Chris Wattie/Reuters

Jonathan Kay

A LESS CRUEL DEATH

02.15.15

Will People Go to Canada to Die?

Last week’s historic Canadian Supreme Court decision overturns a longstanding ban on physician-assisted suicide, but the impact on the United States may be minimal.

Last week, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously found a “right to die” in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the Canadian Bill of Rights). Under the ruling, the Canadian government now has 12 months to create a legal regime that allows patients suffering from grievous and irremediable medical conditions the right to end their lives with a doctor’s assistance.

It is arguably one of the most important decisions in the history of Canadian jurisprudence – but its impact in the United States is likely to be limited. 

As in most “right to die” cases, the facts in Carter v. Canada are grim. The initial plaintiffs were Gloria Taylor, who suffered from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) and Kay Carter, who suffered from degenerative spinal stenosis. Both are now deceased.

ALS is extremely rare, affecting only about 1 out of every 50,000 people per year. (To put this figure in perspective: That would equate roughly to one ALS sufferer out of the entire Yankee Stadium audience that watched Gehrig declare, on July 4, 1939, that he was “the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”) But sufferers of the disease have played an outsized role in Canadian right-to-die jurisprudence: In the early 1990s, an ALS-afflicted British Columbia woman named Sue Rodriguez launched a constitutional challenge against the ban on physician-assisted suicide. That litigation ended with a 5-to-4 Supreme Court decision upholding the prohibition.

The Rodriguez decision had been the law of the land in Canada for more than 20 years — until last week.

The slow, steady, agonizing manner by which ALS kills its victims helps explain why sufferers of this disease have been disproportionately prominent in the struggle for access to physician-assisted suicide.

As muscles degenerate during the initial stages of ALS, patients gradually lose the ability to initiate voluntary movement. After three or four years, bowel functions, eye movement and lung operation typically begin to fail, too — until such time as the patient dies by suffocation. During all this, brain and sensory function typically is unimpeded, so the patient experiences all of these horrors helplessly, but lucidly. It is not surprising that some ALS patients want to be spared these creeping horrors, and seek a way to die with dignity at a time of their own choosing.

It is this combination of mental competency with complete physical helplessness that makes ALS a grimly ideal case study for assisted-suicide proponents: Such patients can provide informed consent to their own death, but lack the means to accomplish the task on their own.

Taylor died peacefully from an acute bacterial infection in 2012 before her ALS proceeded to its final deadly phase. She was, in a morbid sense, “lucky.” As I havewritten elsewhere, her story shows how laws against physician-assisted suicide turn the act of dying into a bioethical lottery: Patients in the advanced stages of terrible diseases have to rely on some random pathogen to perform the mercy that a well-regulated medical corps should make available to us, if we wish it.  

“They suffer from the knowledge that they lack the ability to bring a peaceful end to their lives.”

Last week’s Supreme Court of Canada ruling is persuasive precisely because it poignantly captures the wrenching dilemma faced by people who suffer from degenerative conditions such as ALS. The Court wrote that Taylor was left with the cruel choice “between killing herself while she was still physically capable of doing so, or giving up the ability to exercise any control over the manner and timing of her death.”

The Court continued, “[Other] witnesses described the progression of degenerative illnesses like motor neuron diseases or Huntington’s disease, while others described the agony of treatment and the fear of a gruesome death from advanced-stage cancer. Yet running through the evidence of all the witnesses is a constant theme — that they suffer from the knowledge that they lack the ability to bring a peaceful end to their lives at a time and in a manner of their own choosing.”  

“Some [witnesses] describe how they had considered seeking out the traditional modes of suicide but found that choice, too, repugnant,” the Justices added.

By way of example, they quote one witness to the effect that “I was going to blow my head off. I have a gun and I seriously considered doing it. I decided that I could not do that to my family. It would be horrible to put them through something like that. I want a better choice than that.” 

Legal developments in the United States contributed indirectly to this important moment in Canadian constitutional law. For many years, opponents of physician-assisted suicide have warned that patients may request to die at a moment of psychological weakness; or that they will overlook the possibility that their remaining time on earth will have meaning beyond that which they presently can imagine. (One example they might cite in this regard is Stephen Hawking, who suffers from a slow-progressing form of ALS.)