Rep Steve Vaillancourt


Vermont Moves Toward Marijuana Legalization

Just like my native state of Vermont beat my adopted state of New Hampshire (by a few months) in becoming the first state to legislatively legalize same sex marriage, it appears our neighbors to the West are going to do it again, this time when it comes to legalization, regulation, and decriminalization of marijuana.  It's not a done deal yet, but Vermont is getting a head start.

Vermont Public Radio reported earlier this week how Governor Peter Shumlin has contracted with the Rand Corporation to conduct a study regarding the pluses and minuses of legalization.  The state is kicking in $20,000 for the study; the rest comes from a private foundation.  We in New Hampshire should be prepared to "borrow" whatever the Vermonters learn, and the results should be in by early next year, just in time for a new bill to be heard by the New Hampshire and Vermont Legislatures (hint, hint).

My guess is the study will show far more pluses.  Most evidence out of Colorado is positive; revenues are far exceeding expectations; the crime rate is actually down.

Marriage equality in Vermont took a two-thirds vote since the bill was vetoed by then Republican Governor James Douglas.  With Democratic Governor Shumlin leading the way on legalization, the process could indeed happen much more quickly.

Alas, all we can hope for in New Hampshire is that Maggie "Reefer Madness" Hassan is replaced by Andy Hemingway, and maybe we can catch up with Vermont before they get a big heads up on what is sure to be a bonanza of a revenue stream for whichever state acts first.
A 40 page survey out of Colorado reveals that about 44 percent of sales in cities and 90 percent in the mountain resorts there are to out of staters.
That means that the we could easily double the $25-40 million estimate the Department of Revenue Administration provided the New Hampshire Legislature when my legalization bill was before the Ways and Means Committee last winter.
That's a much more reliable source of revenue, it seems, than expanded gambling.  (The N.H. State Rep web site has been on fire the last few weeks with emails back and forth about the problems with gambling revenue in New Jersey).  Vermont, coincidentally, and New Hampshire are two of the few states in this neck of the woods not to expand gambling opportunities.  In other words, the two of us need a revenue boost more than other states.

Here's the entire story from VPR.

Shumlin Administration Launches Pot Legalization Study

The Shumlin Administration is taking a serious look at the possibility of legalizing marijuana in Vermont. And to look at the pros and cons, the administration has reached an agreement with the Rand Corporation, a nonprofit international research organization, to conduct a thorough investigation of the issue for lawmakers to consider next winter.  


Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding says a comprehensive study is needed because he expects that lawmakers will want to debate this issue during the 2015 session.

The study requirement was included in legislation that passed this year that expanded the capacity of the state’s four medical marijuana dispensaries.

The state will contribute $20,000 for the study and the rest of the cost will be paid for by a private foundation.

"We are going to really try to put together a really high quality report that addresses all of the issues that are related to the legalization of marijuana use." - Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding

The goal is to have a detailed analysis of the issues surrounding legalizing marijuana in Vermont.

“In conjunction with the team from Rand, and our internal system we’re going to really try to put together a really high quality report,” said Spaulding. “That addresses all of the issues that are related to the legalization of marijuana use.”  

Spaulding says the Rand Corporation is a perfect partner for the state on this project.

“I think that by having an organization with a reputation as solid as Rand conduct this research analysis... will  allow the Legislature to have a real conversation based on objective information and facts on what is a pretty significant policy decision,” said Spaulding.

The study will look at a number of critical issues.

“They will be doing everything from estimating what the usage would be in Vermont, what the effects on public health would be if you were to go down this road,” said Spaulding. “(And) what’s the right way to do the taxation, how do you deal with the black market, what happens on the highways, There are a myriad number of issues.”

Spaulding says administration officials will also look at the experience of the two states that have legalized marijuana: Colorado and Washington.

“Plus we have people in state, our commissioners of liquor control for example have their counterparts are involved in Colorado and Washington,” said Spaulding. “The commissioner of public safety here in Vermont has counterparts in those states and has some experience with the medical marijuana dispensaries right now.”

Spaulding says Gov. Peter Shumlin has not taken a position on the legalization of marijuana in Vermont and he expects the report will play a major role in the governor’s final decision.

Lawmakers are expected to get the report in January.


Colorado Crime Rate Down 14.6% Since Legalization

Remember the argument that legalization of marijuana would lead to an increase in crime?

Those who made that argument, totally without any substantiation, have been proven wrong (as those of us on the side of legalization knew they would be).

Data out of Colorado shows that the crime rate is actually down 14.6 percent since marijuana was legalizaed earlier this year.  Actually, it make sense.  I've said all along that be legalizing marijuana, you would drive the pushers out of business.  Fewer pushers means less crime.

Totally logical.  Of course, logic means nothing to those who continue to be afflicted with a severe case of Reefer Madness.  For every canard we shoot down, they simply come up with another one.

As always, you don't have to take my word about decreasing crime in Colorado.  Here are some sources.

Data released by the City of Denver indicates that crime rates have decreased since Colorado legalized marijuana. Additionally, a new study concludes that state medical marijuana law "may be correlated with a reduction in homicide and assault rates."  
The following articles add to the mounting evidence that reforming marijuana laws may reduce crime.  
Crime is Down in Denver Since Legalization
  • "Colorado Crime Rates Down 14.6% Since Legalizing Marijuana", By Christina Sarich 4/19/14 Click here
  • "After 3 Months of Legal Pot Sales, Denver Still Not A Crime-Filled Hellscape", By Matt Ferner 4/7/14 Click here
  • "3 Months Later, Here's What Denver Looks Like Since Legalizing Marijuana", By Tom McKay 4/10/14 Click here
  • "Crime in Denver Decreases After Pot Legalization", By Raul Duke 4/10/14 Click here
Marijuana Reform May Actually Reduce Crime
From Around the World
  • "More Pot, Safer Roads: Marijuana Legalization Could Bring Unexpected Benefits", By Jacob Sullum 4/3/14 Click here
  • "Northern California's Illegal Marijuana Trade Takes Deadly Toll", By Julie Johnson 10/6/13 Click here
  • "Legalizing Marijuana Would End Black market, Says Israeli Study", By Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu 10/2/13 Cli




marijuana weed1 263x164 Colorado Crime Rates Down 14.6% Since Legalizing MarijuanaGuess what happens when marijuana is legalized? Not only do you not have to steal it, but it also makes your state tons of cash while dropping crime rates in every conceivable fashion. At least that’s what some stats are showing. Even though many Denver city officials, including Mayor Michael Hancock, fought pot legalization tooth and nail saying it would cause increases in petty crimes and even sexual assault, just three months after Colorado voters helped pass the legalization of marijuana, Denver is enjoying a 14.6% decrease in crime from the same time last year.

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Another Washington Step Toward Marijuana Law Sanity

When the New Hampshire House blocked a bill for the legalization, regulation, and taxation of marijuana earlier this year, after the House had given its initial approval, one of the arguments used by the Reefer Madness party, primary David Hess, R-Hooksett, was that there aren't even banking procedures in place for marijuana businesses.  That argument, semmed together out of flimsiest of fabrics, was never true, but troglodytes will after all be troglodytes.

Now, by a 236-186 vote, the United States House of Representatives has passed legislation to further implement marijuana-related banking.  As this Associated Press report indicates, the vote is largely symbolic since the Treasury Department had already taken care of the problem.  However, note the important next line in the report, "It demonstrates a loosening of anti-marijuana segment on Capitol Hill."

Sadly, Democrats seem to be leading the way on the issue.  Only 46 Republicans, described as moderates and Libertarian-types, supported the bill.  Like on the issue of marriage equality, sadly, Republicans seem destined to wind up on the wrong side of history on this important issue.

Here's the full Associated Press story.


House Votes to Allow Marijuana-Related Banking

WASHINGTON - Jul 16, 2014, 5:38 PM ET


The House voted Wednesday in support of making it easier for banks to do business with legal pot shops and providers of medical marijuana.

The 236-186 vote rejected a move by Rep. John Fleming, R-La., to block the Treasury Department from implementing guidance it issued in February telling banks how to report on their dealings with marijuana-related businesses without running afoul of federal money-laundering laws.

Marijuana dealing is still against federal law, so banks who do business with marijuana dispensaries could be accused of helping them launder their money. Federal money laundering convictions can mean decades in prison.

The Treasury guidance was intended to give banks confidence that they can deal with marijuana businesses in states where they're legal. Many banks are still reluctant to do so.

That has forced many marijuana operations to stockpile cash, a situation that shop owners say is dangerous.

"They are operating just in cash, which creates its own potential for crime, robbery, assault and battery," said Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., whose state has legalized recreational pot use. "You cannot track the money. There is skimming and tax evasion. So the guidance by the Justice Department and the guidance by the Treasury Department is to bring this out into the open."

The vote is largely symbolic since Treasury already had gone ahead with the guidance, but it demonstrates a loosening of anti-marijuana sentiment on Capitol Hill.

"Whereas the federal government once stood in the way of marijuana reform at every opportunity, the changing politics of this issue are such that more politicians are now working to accommodate popular state laws so that they can be implemented effectively," said marijuana advocate Tom Angell.

A coalition of 46 mostly GOP moderates and libertarian-tilting Republicans joined with all but seven Democrats to beat back Fleming's attempt to block the Treasury guidance.

The underlying measure, however, would block the District of Columbia from implementing a local law decriminalizing pot possession. The D.C. City Council approved a measure reducing the penalty for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana to a $25 fine.

That provision, by Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., also would block the city from legalizing pot as Colorado and Washington state have done.


Up The Creek, With A Paddle


These are the scenic falls at Vergennes, Vermont, the state's oldest and smallest city (pop. 2600).  It's 7.7 miles down Otter Creek to Lake Champlain, near the ritzy Basin Harbor Club (I mowed lawns there one summer in high school), but today my brother and I are putting in to explore above the falls, up the creek...with a paddle of course.  One never knows.

Boats from all over take advantage of Vergennes hospitality by journeying up the creek from the lake and spending the night free of charge (two nights in a row maximum or 96 hours in a calendar year; I wonder who's policing that rule), electric hook-ups included (although donations are accepted, $10-20 a night recommended); six were there last night from points ranging from Quebec to Rhode Island.  I read on line that most creeks flow into rivers, but here in Vermont, rivers flow into the mighty Otter Creek which also holds the distinction of flowing northward.

Speaking of police, I don't know where Vergennes gets all its money (from homeowners I presume), but it must have the largest police force per capita in the world.  The other night, a police officer visited a woman wondering why she failed to renew her dog license.  Duh!  Because she no longer has the dog!  Don't police here have anything better to do than track down people who used to have dogs?

You can't make this stuff up--the smaller the city, the more the police harass people.


Course of Otter Creek
No otters, no beaver, no ducks, no geese, not even many birds, not a single other human being, only one unmoving frog on a log in the middle of the creek and lots of cows along the bank.  Best idea--put in below the falls, not above.




NBC--Obama Down 15 In NH; Other Dems Fare Better

NBC News/Marist is out with an in depth poll on New Hampshire public opinion today showing Barack Obama's approval rating here continues to run a few points worse than nationwide; it's at negative 15 (39-54).

However news is better for New Hampshire Democrats who will actually be on the ballot this fall.

Missouri native Jeanne Shaheen runs eight points ahead of New Hampshire native Scott Brown in the U.S. Senate race.  It's 50-42, about in line with other recent polling data.

Shaheen has a plus 13 favorability rating (52-39) while Brown's is plus one (40-39), but the good news for Brown is that he's running way ahead in the Republican primary (Brown 61, Smith 16, Rubens 10), and I continue to believe his approval rating will increase dramatically once Republicans come home afer the primary.

Governor Maggie Hassan fares less well than she did in last week's UNH poll.  Her favorability is plus 17 (47-30) and her approval is plus 25 (55-30).

More bad news for Demcrats is that New Hamsphire voters continue to oppose Obamacare by a wider margin than those nationwide.  It's minus 17 here (35-52), and among the 52 percent who say they are opposed, 46 percent are strongly opposed.

As issues to polls, NBC News/Marist chose the greenhouse gas initiative and pathway to citizenship (As if that's at all relevant here; oh yeah, what percent of the NH population is Latino?  How close to zero can you get?  Or maybe they're expecting a new wave of French Canadians to come across the border).

By a 53-40 percent margin, New Hampshire voters favor the greenhouse gas initiative even if it costs more in utility bills.  The pathway to citizenship question is about even, 50-46 percent in favor.

I've managed to procure a link to the entire poll in case you want more details.  It should be here. 

Full New Hampshire poll results (.pdf)

As in other states around the country (in Alaska incumbent Demcoratic Senator Mark Begich, who voted with Obama 90 percent of the time, is actually campaigning openly against Obama--see link), the question in New Hamsphire will be whether Democrats can run far and fast enough away from Obama to survive.

  1. Washington Post ‎- 2 days ago
    Begich is running in an age of congressional weakness. ... The bad news is that, even running against a Republican to be named later,Begich does not ... in this race, trying to tie Begich to Obama and the Affordable Care Act, ...