Supporters of marijuana gathered in Burlington Saturday to talk about the future of legalization in Vermont. Supporters and users of medical marijuana, crowded in the basement of the First Unitarian Universalist Church in Burlington, to talk about marijuana.
“I feel like people think it’s about getting high and it’s really not about that,” said Colchester resident Jessie Builta-Paradise.
Builta-Paradise was born with epilepsy and has been using cannabis therapy for 10 years and knows the benefits first hand.
“Now I’ve gone from 30 seizures a month, sometimes 30 in a week, to having one seizure every 2-3 months,” Builta-Paradise said.
It’s one of many reasons she wants the state to take current marijuana laws a step further. She wants full legalization.
But not everyone in the Green Mountain State agrees. The organization behind the meeting, BTV Green, says in 2012, 30% of Burlington voted against legalization.
“In reality, there are harms associated with marijuana but its much less harmful than we’ve been led to believe. It’s much less harmful than alcohol for the people who use it and for the society at large,” said Matt Simon. He is New England Director for the Marijuana Policy Project.
Vermont State Senator Dave Zuckerman is working to draft one bill with many goals.
“Bringing drug use and something thats being done all the time anyway, out into the open, destigmatizing it but also respecting what drugs can do and making sure they’re being used responsibly,” Senator Zuckerman said.
Supporters at Saturday’s Legalization and Beyond event also stressed the positive economic impacts of cannabis.
“We argue that marijuana should best be produced in a regulated environment by small businesses rather than by gangs and cartels that currently supply marijuana for Vermont,” Simon said.
Opponents say crime and increased drug use, especially among kids, are reasons not to to move forward with making marijuana legal.
But despite the critics, Simon announced a statewide coalition Saturday–to support legalization.
“Our coalition builders will be reaching out to various organizations and individuals. Seeking to meet with opinion leaders, anybody that has a strong opinion about this, we want to find out what people’s concerns are,” Simon said.
Supporters also want Vermonters convicted of cannabis-only crimes to get a clean slate, and more scientific research dedicated to facts. But it’s a process that they acknowledge will take time.