Vt police: Governor appears tolerant of marijuana
The Associated Press | March 15,2014
MONTPELIER — Vermont police organizations said Friday they oppose increasing the number of medical marijuana dispensaries in the state or legalizing the drug and that Gov. Peter Shumlin’s administration appears tolerant of marijuana.
While commending Shumlin’s efforts to address the opiate addiction problem in Vermont, the Vermont Association of Chiefs of Police, Vermont Sheriffs Association and the Vermont Police Association said in a news release that they are united against efforts for marijuana legalization.
The Vermont Legislature passed a law in 2011 that allows medical marijuana to be distributed from state-approved dispensaries. Last year, Vermont also removed criminal penalties for the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Criminal penalties were replaced with civil fines for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana or 5 grams of hashish.
The police statement was a response to a letter sent to police by the governor saying he’s open to further discussion about marijuana policy in Vermont, said Douglas Johnston, association president.
“I think there is much Vermont can learn from Colorado and Washington in this regard,” Shumlin wrote. “It is too soon to draw any evidence-based conclusions as to the public safety and public health effects of legalization in those states at this time. I assure you that any decision I make on possible legislation regarding the legalization of marijuana in Vermont will be based on careful examination of all the facts, including those related to public safety, public health, and costs.”
The police organizations said the chiefs of police previously expressed concerns about the appearance of the administration’s “tolerance of marijuana” and said they feel they’ve been largely ignored. They said their main marijuana-related concerns are health risks, highway safety and employment issues.
Johnston said marijuana is a “gateway drug” to more dangerous substances and that it appears the state is gradually moving toward legalizing it.
“We need to take politics out of this and do what’s right for the health and safety of Vermonters,” he said.
Shumlin’s press secretary said in a statement that the governor is confident that medical marijuana dispensaries are carefully regulated by the Department of Public Safety and provide relief to those with debilitating illnesses.
“As you know, neither Gov. Shumlin nor legislative leaders believe that Vermont should consider legalization of marijuana at this time, preferring to wait to see how that plays out in Colorado and Washington. Public health and safety impacts will be among the aspects Vermont is watching,” Susan Allen wrote.