Missed opportunity

Even though marijuana is now fully legal in Vermont, we cannot purchase it in a store. The Legislature’s inaction is driving business to Massachusetts — and squandering potential tax dollars from New Hampshire and New York.

PUTNEY — I am about to take a short drive to Greenfield, Mass. tomorrow morning to the pot dispensary. I will probably see fellow Vermonters there, as I did when I was inspecting the Northampton pot store recently.

In Vermont, we still need to apply to the state for a pot card, pay $50, and get our doctor to fill out a form stating that we are able to purchase it legally - if we can.

My particular reason for purchasing pot edibles is that it helps me get to sleep and stay asleep. The decision makers in Montpelier do not think that insomnia is even a reason for making pot legal for purchase, although not sleeping is a major health risk in both the short and long term.

Even though pot is fully legal in Vermont, we cannot purchase it in a store. While we can grow our own pot, I don't want to smoke, and I want to partake of the amazing variety of edibles - including chocolates, baked goods, hard candies, tinctures - that are being created by those who are working with this important herb.

Why does Vermont throw away the huge and important opportunity to sell pot to adults in our state - and tax those purchases?

In a border community like ours, we are used to people traveling to New Hampshire to save on sales tax and to go to the big-box stores that have opened in that sales-tax-free environment.

Pot dispensaries could be the magnet to bring New Hampshire folks to our communities to help keep our struggling downtowns alive. This would also be true for towns on the New York border, as that state also has no legal pot market.

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The issues overwhelming our community - and all other municipalities in the state that are not traditionally affluent towns - are issues that are not simple to fix. And fixing them will take money.

Housing insecurity and homelessness are a huge problem. The money a dispensary could bring into our community, even if we shared the tax revenue with the state, could be put to immediate and urgent use.

What has made our legislature and the governor so reticent about creating a potentially steady, and maybe large, source of income? For the past few years, it has been difficult to understand the machinations of the state Legislature, but the results have been a consistent failure to create a system to tax and sell pot.

Maybe the bulk of communities in the state are so rich in revenues that they feel neither a need for another income stream nor a strong reason for people to visit their towns.

But I somehow doubt it.

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Pot is easy to grow and easy to obtain, and the idea that Governor Scott is hesitant to approve of selling it in the state without a test for impaired driving makes no sense. Legal sales will make no difference in the number of people who are foolish enough to get high and drive. This happens, and has been happening for as long as pot has been in use. It has been ubiquitous for decades.

I by no means support people driving while under the influence, but it has been a long time since our police wasted their time arresting adults for simple possession.

It is time to let all the state legislators, as well as the governor, know that you favor being able to have the same rights as citizens in California, Massachusetts, Colorado, Washington, and other states that have seen the light and are profiting from selling a product that will be in high demand as more reasons to eat, smoke, and ingest its multiple forms are understood.

If we survive the current Neanderthal federal government, which continues to place pot on a list of drugs that are potentially lethal like heroin, there may come a day when the Food and Drug Administration and other agencies actually begin testing marijuana to help us understand the real scientific grounds for all its many benefits.

When that day comes - and it will - we need to have our taxing and selling policies in place and our dispensaries open and welcoming.

But since that day is in the future, my tax dollars will be going to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

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