Legalization reconsidered

Constant VPO readers (Hi, Mom!) know that I’ve thought marijuana legalization would fall short of passage. Not that I’m opposed to legalization; I just didn’t think it would happen this year.

Startin’ to change my mind.

There are two factors at play, and neither directly involve the State Senate passing the bill last week.

First, I’ve written that there’s one person who could turn the tide — Governor Shumlin. He supports legalization, but I wondered how actively he would engage on the issue. Well, in the Senate, he was heavily engaged, and probably made the crucial difference. Especially with two of his longtime Senate running buddies, John Campbell and Dick Mazza. Both were opposed to legalization, both are powerful enough to derail any bill they don’t like — and both stepped aside and allowed the process to go forward.

Second, House Speaker Shap Smith has consistently thrown cold water on expectations for the bill. Now, he seems to be opening the door a bit. In an interview with the Vermont Press Bureau, he called the bill “a squeaker,” which is different than calling it a loser. He said “the split that exists in the Senate reflects how people in the House feel.” Well, the Senate just passed the bill.

And he said “if you asked [key House members] today,” they’d oppose, which was also true of the Senate. (Democratic lawmakers have been urged to consult with constituents during this week’s legislative break, so if you favor legalization, now would be a good time to contact your Representative.)

Also, as a well-connected friend of mine pointed out last week, Mr. Speaker has made a habit of expectation-lowering. This is mainly a matter of his cautious nature and his leadership style: he can be tough, but he doesn’t do it in public, and he doesn’t put his lawmakers on the spot.

In that context, his warnings on legalization looks like business as usual.

Plus, with expectations lowered, one of two things will happen: Smith will be proven right, or he will be seen as a hero, the guy who helped swing the votes. Which would set him up nicely for a potential late re-entry into the 2016 campaign.

I still think the odds are against legalization this year. But they’re shorter than they were a week ago, and there’s reason for supporters to be hopeful.

4 thoughts on “Legalization reconsidered

  1. NanuqFC

    Wonder what Shummy traded away for the DINOs’ cooperation. Maybe his agreement to stand aside while they gut Vermont Health Connect and let “Spaghetti” Phil Scott waste more money going to the federal exchange. I mean, given Shummy’s complete abandonment of single-payer and lackluster and mendacious support of the Vermont construction. Which, btw, worked well enough to save my life three weeks ago.

    1. Walter Carpenter

      “Which, btw, worked well enough to save my life three weeks ago.”

      I am glad it did. As someone who is probably going to have to be on the VHC soon enough, it is refreshing to hear that it worked for someone. I know so many who it has not worked for. It has forced them into high premium/out-of-pocket costs that they cannot afford and cannot use because of the costs. While it most likely not make much of a difference if it were the VHC or the fed exchange, as these exchanges are a terrible excuse for the kind of reform in health care that we need so badly and are all screwed up everywhere, I am glad to hear that it did something right for someone.

  2. Walter Carpenter

    I just wish that they would pass it this year, get it done, and do all the tinkering that will need to be done with the bill in future sessions.


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