Home > Uncategorized > Legislative Session 2016: Week 9, Advocacy Update

PEAR Vermont Advocacy Update

Mental Health & Substance Use and Misuse Priorities
Legislative Session 2016, Week 9

Key Issues

Quiet, So Quiet

As things heated up on the Town Meeting home front, things in the State House spent a week of mostly quiet time. The focus switched from cannabis to fire trucks. Legislators made their way on their Town Meeting rounds, these stops – along with the inevitable Doyle poll* – give the folks at home a chance to ask questions and express their opinions. No issue was more widely discussed than marijuana.

*”The Doyle survey, a Vermont tradition for more than four decades, starts conversations around the Statehouse but is not necessarily an accurate reflection of public opinion, the way a randomized scientific poll is presumed to be.” (Burlington Free Press, 30 March 2015, http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/news/politics/2015/03/30/doyle-poll-shows-vt-split-sugary-drink-tax/70678344/)

Cannabis Queries

The Valley News ran a good story gathering opinions of local legislators, mostly House members. As the bill moves from the Senate to the House it appears to face a challenging route to passage. The roundup of comments supported the likelihood of a difficult route for the bill. Here is a selection of thoughts gathered from the legislators the Valley News spoke with:

“It’s got a pretty steep climb in the House, to tell you the truth,” said House Majority Leader Sarah Copeland Hanzas, D-Bradford. “There are a lot of concerns that people have before I think we’ll see passage of legalization in the House”

The Senate bill would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. Ten small scale growing operations would also be licensed. “I’m not convinced that we’re ready to move forward with legalization,” Copeland Hanzas said.

“I think there’s a pretty tepid thought about it in the House,” said Rep. Donna Sweaney , D-Windsor. A supporter of legalization in the past Sweaney said that there should be no rush, particularly in light of the opioid epidemic.

“I think the details of how we go forward are very important and there are a lot of questions about what those details should look like,” said Rep. Sandy Haas, P-Rochester, even as she stated her long held position that prohibition was not working.

Rep. Job Tate, R-Mendon is opposed to the Senate bill. His questions were primarily financial. “To get this thing up and off the ground will cost a lot of money to begin with,” Tate said. “I don’t think this will get very far.”

Rep. Patsy French, D-Randolph, noted a marked difference from those who spoke out and the more confidential responses on the Doyle poll she had distributed. The public voices were strongly opposed, but the poll respondents were dramatically more in favor. “It was a little surprising to me,” French said. “I think people are all over the place.”

Rep. Kevin Christie, D-Hartford seemed to sum up the feelings of the group concerning an emerging House position. “I think there’s still a lot of questions that need to be answered,” and “Until my questions are answered, I’m not making a decision.”

Read Full Article, Here: Area Lawmakers Remain Skeptical of Legal Marijuana in Vt.
From the Dept. of Health: Health Impact Assessment: Marijuana Regulation in Vermont

Involuntary Medication Recommendation

The House Appropriations Committee worked on priorities for the 2017 budget. They received recommendations from policy committees. In the House Human Services Committee, the most important priorities included deleting – contrary to the Governor’s budget proposal – any savings attributed to changes in existing involuntary treatment and involuntary medication policies. The Committee also supported a new medical assisted treatment hub in St. Albans and the Department for Disabilities, Aging, and Independent Living’s proposed budget.
View original Constant Contact, here.

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