Testimony by Mark Linkhorst, Cannabis.Pro LLC, Consultant & Industry Developer
S.48 / H.200
AN ACT RELATING TO DECRIMINALIZATION OF POSSESSION OF ONE OUNCE OR LESS OF MARIJUANA
I welcome the opportunity to offer testimony for the State of Vermont. 10 Years ago, I would not have imagined myself being able to have a conversation of this sort. At that time, I was dealing with my own demons and protesting the War in Iraq as a disabled veteran yet to realize my own affliction with PTSD.
2004 – After a lucrative few months selling domain names for an industry leading registrar, I landed a position with the Marijuana Policy Project. Let me add that I am here today as an activist and Vermonter, I am not affiliated with MPP or its lobbying in Vermont. My introduction to the marijuana legalization industry started in Las Vegas, to an environment that was not friendly with any marijuana use.
Nobody told me that before I drove 3000 miles to work on legalizing marijuana for adults over 21 in the State of Nevada. I don’t think anyone has told that to Willie Nelson either. Later in 2004, I was blessed with the opportunity to visit and work on marijuana law reform in Alaska, a law that would have been a more advanced form of legalization than the Netherlands. At that point, 4 ounces of marijuana was legal for personal use in the home along with cultivation of 25 plants or less, it still is. I will add that this was some of the cheapest, highest quality cannabis I’ve ever found in the US outside of Northern California.
It was of the calibre you would find at a Dutch Coffeeshop or a medical dispensary in California. Perhaps some of the greatest irony in Alaska was finding BC bud, all the way up there in Fairbanks. For those here not familiar with Canadian export marijuana, you really don’t want to be. It doesn’t burn well, barely gives you a high, some people call it Pretendica. I illustrate this point to show that as a state with an international border, your concern shouldn’t be Mexico. I’m sure the law enforcement here today, could discuss the contraband seized during border crossings and international smuggling operations. I’m here to talk about decriminalization of marijuana for Vermonters. Let me say that I hope this law moves forward, and thank you for considering it.
That’s not all I’m going to say. Vermont needs to amend its medical cannabis laws. I won’t sit here and advocate taxation and regulation, because I don’t want the think-tank academics from the likes of RAND Corporation rolling in here telling Vermonters what to do. One of the things that attracted me to Vermont is the potential to be doing this right here right now, because I don’t have to be a career politician or lobbyist to have a real conversation about marijuana laws. Now I get to tell you all my garments I’m wearing today are made out of industrial hemp, and I hope you embrace industrial hemp for your farmers, whether the federal government gives you permission or not, take the liberty upon yourselves to allow the plants growth and replenish your soils and lands.
The next thing I want to discuss is why Vermont’s medical cannabis laws need to be amended, revamped, and matured is the vertical integration model recommended to you isn’t going to work like planned. I believe we’ll see this in the coming months as the dispensary opens in Burlington. Last year I learned this while visiting with the BIG dispensary operator in Maine. They couldn’t handle the demand from current patients and crop yields, and were effectively putting new patients on waiting lists to start receiving medicine.
Yesterday I paddled to New York with my whitewater kayak, a little over 6 feet long across Lake Champlain. Nobody stopped me, I wasn’t breaking any laws, it was a risk I decided was OK to take. I mention this because I saw 6 birds on the water, and it made me think of Vermont’s medical marijuana law. 4 dispensaries, the state government, and the federal government.
That model will not work, but the ice just thawed on the lake, and I can understand why the legislature has done what it had to with the progress thus far. By only allowing 4 dispensaries is to make Vermont easy pray for the federal government when they decide to start enforcing patent #6630507. Interesting in the light of marijuana remaining a schedule I drug. An easy scenario to imagine had November’s election wound up in the 47% guy’s pocket.
Doctors in the state of Vermont should be able to recommend marijuana for any condition they feel it can help. They need to understand they are protected by the 1st Amendment. Why these bodies of government are suddenly experts on cannabis therapy is beyond me. Everyone has an endocannabinoid system, everyone. All those who use it are self medicating in some fashion, some give it up, some embrace it, some blame it, many more need it, some never use it. Cannabis is considered the anti-drug as doctors find that those using cannabis with other pharmaceutikills use half the big-pharms compared to those not using cannabis. The fact the state has the program being overseen by the Department of Public Safety instead of the the Department of Health would be a great place to start with medicinal progress.
Communities that have a patient base not near the proximity of the 4 dispensaries should be allowed to cultivate co-operatively. Vermont farmers who are medical patients should be allowed to cultivate outdoors, bringing excess marijuana for their needs to one of the 4 dispensaries and paying taxes when relieving their burdens of too much marijuana, co-ops could do the same when that wonderful time of year comes. I’m sure there are farmers out there not paying any tax under current black market prohibition but I bet they’d feel a whole lot better should that ability arise and their hempery could prosper in light of sensible regulations.
Individuals should be able to cultivate. 25 Plants in Alaska is the current law for in home personal use, under their decriminalized privacy rights. Medical providers in California in Humboldt County & Santa Cruz county can have gardens with 99 plants for medical use. I’m not advocating these kinds of numbers, but the numbers Vermont has implemented for medical use is not reasonable, and in turns creates a demand to be filled by black marketeers. Those patients who are cultivating at home, should be able to get live plant cuttings or seeds from the dispensaries, buy medicine from the dispensaries as well, when needed between crops, for higher use ailments, ailments needing edibles, or concentrated extracts. Limiting patients to one dispensary is a regulation that needs to be dropped for many reasons, primarily finding the best medicine to alleviate symptoms.
What if said dispensary doesn’t have a strain to alleviate symptoms? What if it isn’t prepared in a way that is easiest for the patient to consume? What if the patient needs the medicine NOW for a condition but has to wait because of “regulations” on medicine amounts and production? What if the dispensary gets a case of spider mites or white powdery mildew and ruins the entire garden? What if the dispensary isn’t growing organically or doesn’t know how to dry/cure their products? What if the nutrients, soils, and growing methods aren’t vegan?
Moving forward with medical marijuana, I would like to see cannabis therapeutics programs at UVM, especially studies on veterans who need the plant moreso than alcohol & big-pharma. The state should consider allocating research funds for developing this program using cannabis legally produced under Vermont law and incorporate cannabis therapeutics into the new healthcare reform occurring. Keeping money in the pockets of Vermonters is much better for the populace than the Monsontonization of the cannabis plant to GW-Pharmaceuticals who is colluding with the US government on a nationwide monopoly for Sativex. Coming soon to a pharmacy near you, made from whole plant cannabis extracts.
The federal government doesn’t like large gardens, but the state has forced potentially 4 companies to fulfill the demand of the entire patient base who can’t grow for themselves or needs medicine to fill a void between crops. In a state full of farmers, the state has setup a monopoly on the plant that will be the next DOT.COM revolution in this country. I congratulate this body for considering decriminalization and not putting people behind bars for possessing plant matter.
I stand here telling you that come summer, there will be boats on the lake, people on the beaches, and more than 6 birds in the water. The easiest way for everyone to be safe on the water is to consider my message today. Consult with your doctor to see if cannabis is right for you, for euphoria lasting more than 4 hours, thank your local organic farmer.