Letter to the editor: In favor of cannabis legalization

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In favor of cannabis legalization

On April 7, I chaired the first meeting of the newly formed Vermont Chapter of Women Grow. For those who are not familiar with Women Grow, it is perhaps the fastest growing organization in the cannabis industry and has been profiled in a Newsweek Magazine cover story from September of 2015 that gives an overview of women taking over the billion dollar cannabis industry.

Frustrations in the room were being shared that Vermonters are not able at this time to consume, grow and build businesses around the cannabis industry, except for the rare few.

The weather this winter has been relatively mild with heating prices down as an enormous blessing. Even so, countless Vermonters are scraping by with lower incomes than usual due to their dependency on snow-based work for their livelihood.

With a population of approximately 630,000, Vermont is roughly half of the size of Albany, N.Y. We need to take advantage of whatever economic opportunities we have. Surrounding states have far more people and land, making it harder for us to compete. Massachusetts will legalize cannabis by the end of this year and other New England states will be right behind.

Governor Shumlin put forth in his State of the State address in January his support of legalizing cannabis in Vermont. The majority of Vermonters are in favor of legalization and countless people would prefer a few puffs of a joint rather than a drink.

My personal amusement comes from the fact that, as anyone familiar with cannabis knows, little will actually change within the state of Vermont once legalized. The same people who consume cannabis now will be consuming cannabis after legislation is passed. Our focus needs to be on educating and empowering the state to ensure our youth are informed with parental guidance and school support. I suspect that the same number of teens will be smoking pot once it is legal as there are right now when it is still illegal.

At the Women Grow meeting, we discussed how we as a relatively large network of cannabis supporters within Vermont could make a statement in support of the plant.

We could protest as 350.org did and get arrested for smoking pot in front of the State House in Montpelier, or we can vote with our pocketbooks. One suggestion was to put out the word that we would not purchase alcohol until the time recreational cannabis is legal too. We need to come up with a plan and implement it. The Montgomery Bus Boycott went on for over a year but it was effective. Now is the time to send a clear message to our elected officials that the majority of Vermonters want legalization. We are in no danger of "reefer madness" or much of anything actually changing at all. And if you don't believe me, then I suggest you spend a few thousand hours doing the research that I have done so that you are at least informed.

In early February, 1300 women flew to Denver, Colorado to attend the Women Grow conference. That number represents lots of dinners, and hotel reservations and countless other ways that new and additional revenue streams found their way into Colorado. I look forward to the day when we can plan a Women Grow conference at one of the Vermont ski resorts that attract hundreds of thousands of tourists each year to our beautiful state. But, until legalization is passed, Vermont will not benefit from the billion dollar cannabis industry to the extent that it could and should.

To delay cannabis legalization any longer is just plain foolish. And I have not even mentioned the importance of industrial hemp to Vermont's economy. Please let us restore the cannabis plant to its rightful position within American and Vermont life.

— Mia Feroleto Ludlow


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