Vermont “exceptionalism” is naive

By Julia Purdy

Governor Shumlin has been quoted saying that legalizing recreational marijuana is entering “uncharted territory.” Other supporters have claimed that Vermont will legalize marijuana “the Vermont way.” The governor’s statement is completely disingenuous, since we do not lack for a crystal ball (now five, in fact). And the jingoistic notion expressed by optimists that we will do it “our way” shows an astonishing naiveté, as if Vermont “exceptionalism” will prevail and we will not be subject to the forces that operate wherever the street drug industry—legal or illegal—flourishes.

In the deliberations of the Senate Government Operations Committee, the immediate question should be: are any of the regulations proposed actually enforceable—and at what cost?

One very sticky wicket is the proliferation of new ways to partake of weed—or, more properly, its many potent byproducts, at least some of which are concocted to make it difficult to identify as a vehicle for the marijuana high, and all of which will require setting up a toxicology lab to test contents, potency, and “purity” of the product.

The Sept. 10-16 edition of the tabloid Westword out of Denver (westword.com) gives an authentic picture of the high-octane commercialized marijuana culture that is headed our way should we legalize.

In a section of Westword titled “The Stoner” a user seeks help finding a variety that doesn’t cause paranoia and anxiety:

Question: “Dear Stoner: I love the variety of strains in the dispensaries, but haven’t found a good head/body combination. I don’t like to become a zombie, but the sativas are making me a little too paranoid. Is there any pot that will keep me active without the anxiety?–Linda Lou”

Answer: “Dear Linda: They say that once you get the yips, it’s almost impossible to get rid of them. You wouldn’t be the first toker scared away from the mind-bending strength of super-sativas like Durban Poison, Green Crack or Sour Diesel, but you still have plenty of options, thanks to the boom in cross-breeding. Because of the psychoactive properties in cannabinoids, you can never fully predict how strains will affect an individual, but it sounds like you want a hybrid. Hybrids come in all flavors and indica/sativa ratios. If you aren’t a big fan of the indica comedown and subsequent nap, then you probably want a sativa-leaning hybrid or a fifty-fifty split, at the very least. I just reviewed a fantastic hybrid for this week’s StrainGang (see page 88). But Casey Jones and Girl Scout Cookies are two readily available sativa-dominant hybrids that have given me clear highs with almost no hangover, and Flo and Pac-10 are some near fifty-fifty splits that start out extremely cerebral and end with very manageable aftereffects. If that doesn’t work, then maybe cannabis isn’t for you.”

In a column in Westword called “StrainGang” the author reviewed marijuana products in much the same way that a connoisseur would review a fine wine or a craft beer. The reviewer made his purchase at a medical marijuana dispensary, Mile High Green Cross, that now purveys recreational cannabis as well. After describing one strain of marijuana buds (flowers) as “a vivid green blasted in a shroud of white trichomes, with small hints of purple inside the calyxes and a few orange hairs sprouting at the tips,” he made his choice. “I inhaled two Volcano bags at around 300 degrees, and each one tasted like spicy bark. It wasn’t a foul taste, but I’d hoped for more soil and diesel notes considering how skunky my car smelled. But the high was great nonetheless. I blew through preparing a chicken Caesar salad for lunch, ate it with measured ferocity and went back about my day with a stoney bliss that lasted into the late afternoon. Those looking for sativa effects and some appetite help without the paranoia need look no further.”

Marijuana advertising

The ads for marijuana products and purveyors in Westword look like the pictorial equivalent of the garish strip malls strung out along the approaches to almost any Western city. Eclipsing the usual thumbnail classifieds are display ads, competing for attention and the consumer dollar with the same come-ons we associate with the old-time snake oil salesman.

One common category is the medical dispensaries-turned-retail-outlets and promoting themselves as MMDs (medical marijuana doctors). They offer bargain prices on such products as “Over 50 Strains Of Flower–Huge Variety of Concentrates and Edibles.” Nature’s Kiss (“Medical Only”) offers “Over 40 Varieties of Hash,” buds, joints, glass bongs and dab rings, “Mt. Medbar,” “Live Resin,” “Shatter Grams,” “Wax/Budder,” “Wana Sour Gummies,” “Charlottes’s Web,” “Apothecanna,” “Mary Janes Medicals,” and two free joints on the first visit. Options urges clients to switch caregiver and take advantage of their specials, which include flowers, concentrates, shatter. They also offer accessories such as vape pens and other paraphernalia and even special organic or hydroponic product.

Marijuana for beginners

Functioning like any other tourist industry publication, the Colorado Pot Guide offers a handy primer for visitors to Colorado, including where to stay, what to buy, where to buy it, and an illustrated encyclopedia of the cannabis pharmacopoeia, together with descriptions of their properties.

Concentrates are derived by extracting the potent psychoactive ingredient THC from the plant, using a hydrocarbon solvent such as propane or butane (lighter fluid). The butane extraction process has led to devastating home fires and even though it eventually evaporates, butane tends to leave a toxic residue in the product. For this reason CO2 extraction is gaining favor.

Butane hash oil, “honey oil.” So called because its consistency resembles thick honey. Used in vape pens. The Guide: “Forget smoking flowers. Let’s buy some hash oil and go for a hike.”

Wax. The end product of butane hash oil. The substance has a soft, waxy consistency and contains highly concentrated THC. Packed into an over-the-counter skin salve container, it’s easy to carry and use without arousing suspicion. It can be made at home, adding to the risk of contamination and unexpected side effects, including hallucinations, paranoia and psychotic reactions. The Guide: “It packs a big punch of THC.”

Dab or budder. A type of hash oil that contains about 70% THC. The Guide: “I took a budder dab and watched QVC for six hours.”

Hashish, hash. Resin extruded from the glands of the marijuana buds (flowers) and smoked as a powder. Afghanistan has perfected the process. The Guide: “I really want to try some hash from overseas to see how it compares to what we have in Colorado.

Clearly, recreational marijuana is a genie that will not be put back into the bottle. The wide-open spaces of the Wild West may be able to absorb it, but for a geographically cramped little state whose entire population equals that of Denver County alone, Vermont may well be biting off more than it can chew.

5 comments on “Vermont “exceptionalism” is naive

  1. “The wide-open spaces of the Wild West may be able to absorb it, but for a geographically cramped little state whose entire population equals that of Denver County alone, Vermont may well be biting off more than it can chew.”

    Denver County is a much smaller place. Vermont has 67.7 people per square mile. Denver County has 4,044 people per square mile. That means Denver County has about 60 times more people than the state of Vermont. If a low population density is necessary to “absorb” liberty then Vermont will be superior by far.

  2. I’m a ninth generation Vermonter so while I might be proud, I think history has shown that we’re very capable of governing ourselves, even when our approach is different from those of other states. Was it naive to help lead the national debate on gay marriage or did we do it because we were guided by our own ‘Vermont way’? Should we model our gun laws after states with high rates of violent crime or keep our ‘Vermont way”? Why bother making GMO labeling laws part of the ‘Vermont way’ if California still doesn’t require packaging labels? We can do it with guns and human rights, but we won’t be able to govern ourselves when it comes to the cannabis plant?

    The approach being put forward is the same one that you’ll get from any education source that this (now developed in some parts of the country) industry provides: LOW and SLOW. This approach is finally being put forward after years of careful consideration via observing the developments–good and bad–out West, monitoring one of the country’s most conservative medical marijuana programs in VT, and legislators spending time outside of the session to be educated by policy experts from around the world.

    There are certainly questions that remain for what a ‘Vermont way’ approach to cannabis really means, and those questions need to be worked out. This is why Senator White’s proposal to include a commission and cannabis control board eases the transition and allows those supervising to cautiously proceed and make corrections to the policies as they evaluate what really works here in Vermont.

    Nervous about advertising of cannabis? Great, let’s make sure that in VT, we’re not allowing for discounts or happy hours (a la tobacco and alcohol policies) and let’s keep retail outlets away from schools. Worried about infused products such as ‘dabs’, ‘shatter’, ‘edibles’, and ‘budder’? Well, good news, there’s no mention of these in this round of the legislation, which proves that in VT we’re committed to the low and slow approach, even when it means delaying and blocking that very lucrative market in 2016. If you’re really steadfastly opposed to any sign of cannabis in your community, you can lobby your local select board to keep businesses out of your community–assuming your neighbors share your concerns.

    This process has been one that’s been undertaken by our Vermont leaders with healthy skepticism and caution, not naiveté. Those who disagree with cannabis progress have spoken, been heard, and as a state, we’re proceeding forward as the majority have requested. There will continue to be respectful discussions between neighbors and online, and these conversations will continue to be heard and implemented by our lawmakers. Even if the author disagrees with the outcomes, we’ve proven with gay marriage, guns, and GMO’s that we’re more than capable of making our own laws.

    1. Thanks, Eli. We appreciate your perspective and will share this with our readers as a letter to the editor next week in print, too.

  3. Vermont legislator don’t have a clue about cannabis. I have spoken with several legislators they are not educated enough for the people of Vermont. .They especially David Zuckerman have some serious egos when they say the Vermont way. .Well I can tell you this the vermont medical cannabis program here is greatly flawed and should be the first priority for cannabis anything in Vermont. .There are four dispensary in Vermont and 1788 patients on the Vermont cannabis program. We still have limited access to cannabis. There are no testing labs in Vermont for cannabinoids or pesticides. It is a huge shame that Vermont would like to do cannabis codified cannabis laws before having a working cannabis program. Especially when most doctors in Vermont still call it Pot or Marijuana. They don’t realize that cannabis sativa L is medicine and that cannabinoids in cannabis from a variety of different strains can help alleviate pain and suffering. Vermont is naive to think a small state that has the most restrictions on cannabis for medical purposes can operate a legal cannabis program or regulation on a plant. One thing that is lacking in Vermont is the ambition to have education first before doing something wrong. Cannabis sativa L should be able to be accessible for all illnesses in Vermont and doctors and nurses and many other people should be educated in cannabis therapies long before we open the flood gates to legalization especially when the state of Vermont is in debt due to the health care system issue. Let’s change how we think about it because I believe patients before taxes and regulations come first. .I advocate for cannabis whole plant therapies for medical purposes first before legalization happens in Vermont. I personally have the youngest child in Vermont on cannabis program here but unfortunately after two years still we have limited access to cannabis oil for medicine for epilepsy. This does not work because of the fact that Vermont government placed the cannabis program in a law enforcement agency instead of the health department which is where it should be. Look at all the other states they have there cannabis program in the department of public health and human services Division but not in Vermont they placed it in a law enforcement agency. They have no education and only two workers who are not educated enough about cannabis medicine in any aspect. .Vermont government trying to do legalization is prohibition disguised as legalization by taxing cannabis and regulations on a plant. One thing that should be addressed is that the medical cannabis program needs to be addressed first and foremost. Parents of a child with Dravet Syndrome a rare form of epilepsy that still has no access to cannabis oil for medicine because Vermont legislator don’t think first they see money before health care.

    1. Hi Keith,
      Thanks for your comment. We’d love to include this as a letter to the editor in our print edition next week. Can you let me know your last name, town and if you’re affiliated with any organization that supports cannabis? Thanks.

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