Vermont Gov. warns of Bay State’s ‘bad pot bill’

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STATE HOUSE — The opposition to the ballot question to legalize the adult use of marijuana that Massachusetts voters will probably see on their November ballots has a new ally: Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin.

Shumlin, the governor of the Green Mountain State since 2010, last week continued to push Vermont to legalize cannabis on its own terms before the southern part of his state has to deal with the effects of Massachusetts’s “bad pot bill.”

As its neighbors march toward legalization, landlocked Vermont could soon find itself surrounded by commercial pot. Shumlin favors legalizing the substance — which the Democrat has said he smoked in his youth — through the Legislature rather than the ballot.

He favors a bill that narrowly cleared the Vermont Senate last month, calling it “the most careful, deliberate attempt to regulate marijuana in America” and pointing out that it would prohibit the sale of edible marijuana products “which have caused so many problems in Colorado.”

“The bill’s approach is in stark contrast to the one proposed in the Massachusetts referendum that will be voted on in November, which would allow edibles that have caused huge problems in other states, smoking lounges, home delivery service, and possession of up to 10 ounces of marijuana. Vermont’s bill allows none of that,” Shumlin wrote in a blog post on his official webpage. “If Massachusetts moves forward with their legalization bill while Vermont delays, the entire southern part of our state could end up with all the negatives of a bad pot bill and none of the positives of doing the right thing.”

In Massachusetts, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has put forth a ballot initiative that would legalize the adult use of marijuana and make it available through a regulated retail industry.

Jim Borghesani, the campaign’s communications director, said Shumlin has locked in on edibles and “concepts that probably don’t really reflect the accurate ground reality” in states that have legalized cannabis.

“He seems to focus on edibles as a negative and, unfortunately, I think he’s falling into the same exaggerations when it comes to edibles that a lot of other people have,” Borghesani said. “The problems with edibles in Colorado were pretty much contained to the first year of legal sales. The packaging has been changed, the portioning has been changed. It’s a learning process.”

Many Massachusetts lawmakers have pointed to edibles — which include marijuana-laced gummy bears, candy bars, brownies, lollipops and so on — as a source of significant concern as activists who have had successful at the polls push for further reforms.

Borghesani said edibles are a preferred method of ingestion for some marijuana users, in part because they are smokeless and emit no odor. To think that Massachusetts would have the same problems with edibles as other states had, he said, discounts the advantage of learning from mistakes in those other states.

“Just like any young industry, working through some things that they didn’t get right the first time around and we have the great advantage of learning, learning the best practices, looking at what’s happened in other states, learning from their initial early errors and making sure they don’t occur in Massachusetts,” he said. “We have every reason to think that when legal sales begin in 2018, that we will have the most advanced packaging and the most stringent labeling in the nation.”

— Written by Colin A. Young

Copyright State House News Service