Rarely have I felt so ambivalent about being right.
Last Friday, in my inaugural appearance on Vermont PBS’ “Vermont This Week,” host Mark Johnson asked the panel to predict the outcome of the marijuana debate in the House — a big change, a little change, or nothing at all.
The three of us all agreed on “little,” but I put my answer in two-word form: “Study commission.”
Take it away, distinguished lawmakers…
In the end, the chamber barely agreed to create a commission to study legalization. With the legislative session expected to end this week, marijuana legalization supporters conceded they’ve run out of time to try for more.
Hip, hip, hooray. Let’s hear it for representative democracy. The study commission: the Legislature’s favorite decision-avoidance technique.
The not-a-bang-but-a-whimper conclusion came after the House overwhelmingly voted down a Senate bill to establish a commercial market for pot, and narrowly defeated a measure to allow Vermonters to grow their own.
After all the debates, all the testimony, all the lobbying, the polls showing a hefty majority of Vermonters favoring legalization, we get another frickin’ study commission.
And in the end, we might not even get that. Dick Sears, the Senate’s point man on legalization, rightly called the House bill “a nothing,” and said he’d “need 24 hours to sleep on it” before deciding whether it’s even worth a few minutes of the Senate’s time.
The House’s move is freighted with irony, given the following statement during floor debate:
“We are elected to represent our constituents we are elected to make tough decisions. That’s our responsibility.”
Hahaha. Oh, that’s rich.
Those words were spoken by Rep. Alison Clarkson, brave Democrat from Woodstock, in opposition to a proposed nonbinding statewide referendum on legalization. Yeah, a referendum would have been an “abdication of legislative responsibility,” but a study commission? That’s entirely different, for reasons I will explain as soon as I think of them.
Who’s up for a Constitutional amendment barring the appointment of study commissions?