Daily Archives: May 1, 2016

Pot’s last stand

Monday’s the big day for marijuana legalization. The House is set to hold votes on two very different versions — so different, it’d be fair to say they are diametrically opposed. And therein lies the problem: the momentum toward legalization has splintered. Governor Shumlin and House Speaker Shap Smith, who both favor legalization, could pull a rabbit out of a hat — and that’s what it would take: a last-minute snatching of victory from the jaws of defeat.

Ironically, one possible outcome of the legalization drive is not any loosening of the law, but instead a crackdown on buzzed driving.

Unlikely, but possible. The most probable scenario is some sort of incremental, unsatisfying move that will provide a fig leaf of political cover for those (starting with Shumlin) who invested heavily in this fight. What might that be? Perhaps a nonbinding statewide referendum. Perhaps, as WCAX’s Kyle Midura said on “Vermont This Week,” some loosening of the state’s medical marijuana law. Perhaps something that’s not even on the table at the moment. Monday could be a long day on the House floor.

There are two major obstacles. First, not enough pro-legalization movement in the House, which was always the most likely killing ground for the idea. Second, the Senate and House took such different approaches that there’s no room for compromise.

The Senate took a top-down approach, establishing a regulated market for marijuana. It specifically rejected a grow-your-own exemption, arguing that it would weaken the broader effort to control the consumption of marijuana.

The House bill that will be considered on the floor Monday is centered on grow-your-own. It would create a licensing process for people who wanted to grow small amounts for personal consumption. Precisely what the Senate didn’t want.

Rarely do I find myself saying this, but I agree with the Senate.

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How NOT to attract young people to Vermont

Here’s a campaign issue that’s seemingly tailor-made for Phil Scott. But somehow I doubt that he’ll capitalize on it because, well, he doesn’t have any solutions to offer.

In a new, comprehensive study of college affordability across the country, Vermont finished a dismal 46th. It’s one of the least affordable places to go to college.

What’s even sadder is that just about every state is doing badly, and we’re doing worse than badly. This, according to the 2016 College Affordability Diagnosis just out from the University of Pennsylvania. Its nationwide findings:

— Every state has lost ground on college affordability since 2008.

— Financial aid doesn’t go as far as it used to, and most full-time students cannot make enough to work their way through college debt-free — even community college.

— Low- and middle-income families face significant barriers that limit their ability to invest in education.

This, despite the bounteous lip service paid by politicians to the importance of accessible higher education.

That’s the national picture. Vermont’s is even worse.

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