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STEVE ELLIOTT

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50+ Lawyers Sign Letter to Be Presented to Vermont Lawmakers at First Hearing on H. 170

On February 9 at 9 a.m. ET, the House Judiciary Committee will hear testimony regarding the bipartisan proposal to eliminate penalties for personal marijuana possession and cultivation by adults 21 and older

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Rep. Maxine Grad:
“It fits into our work of … looking at the criminal justice system and where are we spending our resources”
[Emerge Vermont]

More than 50 Vermont attorneys have signed a letter urging the Legislature to “reform our state’s outdated and unjust policies towards cannabis by passing a bill to legalize and regulate its cultivation and sale for adult use in 2017.”

The letter will be presented to lawmakers at the House Judiciary Committee hearing on H. 170, which is scheduled for Thursday at 9 a.m. ET in Room 30 of the Vermont State House.

H. 170 is a bipartisan proposal to eliminate penalties for possession of up to two ounces or less of marijuana, and cultivation of up to two cannabis plants by adults 21 and older. It also reduces penalties for possession and cultivation of larger amounts of marijuana.

“It fits into our work of … looking at the criminal justice system and where are we spending our resources, how are we spending them, and what results we’re getting,” said Rep. Maxine Grad, the Democratic chair of the House Judiciary Committee, reports Peter Hirschfeld at Vermont Public Radio News. Grad is the third lead sponsor of the legalization bill.

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Laura Subin, Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana:
H. 170 is an “exciting step forward for Vermont”
[Vermont Public Radio]

Laura Subin, the director of the Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana, called H. 170 an “exciting step forward for Vermont.” She said she hoped lawmakers would follow it up with a tax-and-regulate model allowing for commercial cultivation and retail sales.

Sen. Dick Sears, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he’s glad to see the Vermont House embracing legalization. Sears said the Senate will be ready and eager to take up whatever the House passes.

‘Inconsistent and Confusing’

The attorneys’ letter highlights the harms caused by prohibition laws, which it notes are unevenly enforced across racial and geographic lines:

“Vermont’s current cannabis policy — predominantly criminal prohibition, with civil penalties for minor possession — has created an inconsistent and confusing patchwork of enforcement that varies from county to county and town to town,” the letter reads. “Regulating possession, cultivation and sale will help end these grossly unjust and potentially unconstitutional disparities.”

The letter also discusses the recent passage of laws regulating marijuana for adult use in Massachusetts and Maine, as well as Canada’s plans to adopt a similar policy later this year:

“It is inevitable that entrepreneurs and businesses in neighboring jurisdictions will establish retail locations as close to Vermont as possible in order to cater to Vermont citizens who wish to be free from the dangers of the unregulated market, as well as the tourists drawn to our state. Rather than watching as cannabis policy is shaped by those around us who do not consider Vermonters concerns, the Legislature should seize the opportunity to design sensible drug policy that puts the public interest, social justice, and the rule of law at the forefront. …

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“We cannot afford to wait and watch any longer as other jurisdictions reap the benefits of regulation while we continue to pay for the consequences of prohibition,” the letter reads.

The full letter and list of signers is available at http://bit.ly/2kjuV9B.

WHAT: Vermont House Committee on Judiciary hearing on H. 170

WHEN: Thursday, February 9, 9 a.m. ET

WHERE: Vermont State House, Room 30, 115 State St., Montpelier

WHO: Vermont House Committee on Judiciary
Rep. Maxine Grad, Committee Chair and Co-sponsor of H. 170
Laura Subin, Director, Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana
Matt Simon, New England Political Director, Marijuana Policy Project
A full list of individuals invited to testify is included in the agenda

# # #

The Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana is a broad coalition of citizens, organizations, and businesses working to end marijuana prohibition in Vermont and replace it with a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed. For more information, visit http://www.RegulateVermont.org.

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