On November 6, 70% of Burlington voters responded yes. Unfortunately, their vote was non-binding. They were in good company, though, with the voters of Colorado and Washington State, whose votes on the same issue were binding, and also in the affirmative. The legal questions are still being worked out, because marijuana is illegal at the federal level.
Now is the time for other states to push forward as well. Vermont is with seventeen other states plus the District of Columbia to have legalized medical marijuana. Polls in Vermont show that 74% of respondents believe marijuana is as safe or safer than alcohol. (source: http://www.mpp.org/states/vermont/)
A recent show on VPR’s Vermont Edition (November 14, 2012: http://www.vpr.net/flash/audio_player/audio_player.php?id=38414) focused on the possibilities of legalization in Vermont. The conclusion from state Sen. Joe Benning and outgoing Rep. Jason Lorber is that decrim–making marijuana possession more like a traffic ticket–should pass in the Vermont legislature this year. However, decrim is not legalization. There are still tens of thousands of marijuana arrests in New York State, our neighbor, under “decrim.”
The second guest on that show, Albert Petrarca, suggested that simultaneously, we need to push for the next step beyond decrim at the local level. Taking Burlington’s success statewide, we should have initiatives in as many towns as possible for Town Meeting Day (the first Tuesday in March) If the towns can do that, it paves the way for the next legislature to take another step forward.
The Federal status should reflect the will of the states. President Obama could call off the DEA from state-licensed dispensaries with a stroke of the pen. He just needs to deschedule marijuana out of the federal status that says there is no medicinal use. “President Choom” has no re-election fears standing between him and ending this persecution. Will his supporters hold his feet to the fire on this issue?
- See the BTV Green Facebook page, see if anyone else has posted that they have a petition ready for your town. (There is not much there yet.)
- My Town Clerk says that this year’s deadline is January 24. The statutory requirement for getting an initiative on the ballot is 5% of your town’s voters. In our town, it would go on the Australian Ballot, but some towns only have voting during the meeting. You might want to call your town clerk, just to confirm. If your Town Meeting is before Tuesday, March 5, your deadline will also be earlier. List of town clerks can be found here: http://vermont-elections.org/elections1/town_clerks_guide.html
- Try to find like-minded people in your town who are willing to help circulate petitions. Decide on language. Will you use something simple like Burlington’s, or craft your own?
- Create a petition form. I’ll be creating one soon at Google Docs if you want to copy mine. Include the full text of the question at the top of every page, and leave room for a date, full address, printed name and signature.
- Start collecting signatures. Get a copy of the voter checklist from your Town Clerk to make sure you’re getting registered voters, and to help you go door-by-door. Post to the BTV Green page if you are on Facebook, and other groups you belong to online, that you are collecting signatures for your town.
- Hand in your signatures to your Town Clerk as soon as you have enough. It’s a good idea to collect 120% to 200% of what you are required to have, in case some signers misunderstand the requirement that they be voters in your town, or in case someone tries to challenge every difficult-to-read name or address.
Woodchuck Report with post-election coverage of this issue:
CCTV interview with Albert Petrarcha:
The BTV Green group