Open Letter to the Legislative Leadership on Cannabis Taxation and Regulation and Racial Equity

To: vermont-house-government-operations@googlegroups.comjkrowinski@leg.state.vt.us; Mitzi Johnson <mjohnson@leg.state.vt.us>; Tim Ashe <timashe@burlingtontelecom.net>; Becca Balint <bbalint@leg.state.vt.us>

Cc: Vermont Racial Justice Alliance Steering Committee Members
Subject: Cannabis Regulation S.54 Social Equity and Inclusion Concerns

Chairwoman Copeland-Hanzas and Legislative Leadership, President Pro Tempe,  Sen Ashe, Sen Balint, Speaker of the House Johnson, Rep Korwinski

Please slow the process of the passage S.54, (cannabis taxation and regulation) to ensure a data driven approach to enable social equity and inclusion.   We acknowledge the efforts made to create a “Development Ladder for minorities” but the bill does not provide a sufficiently robust framework and fails to allocate any revenue to effectively address equity and inclusion.  In short, S.54 has serious social equity, inclusion and reparative shortfalls. Some of the other challenges include:

1.      The bill has no automatic expungement provision.  With a population of 12M people, Illinois recently implemented an automatic expungement provision (for low level offenses)  within their cannabistaxation and regulation policy. 

2.      The “compromise” made on saliva testing overlooks the poor efficacy of the existing technology and will place black, brown and poor people at risk. This technology has not reached an efficacy maturity sufficient to  be used in any capacity where civil liberties hang in the balance.   

3.      The seatbelt provision provides yet another reason for law enforcement to stop black and brown people in Vermont.

We have all come to understand the damage incurred by communities of color (and socioeconomic disadvantaged) by the “war on drugs” under the ostensible enforcement of low level drug crimes (mostly marijuana). Despite the scathing report from the Vermont Attorney General And Human Rights Commission Task Force on Act 54 Racial Disparities in State Systems Report in 2017 and the recent addition of the Racial Equity Executive Director and Panel the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Marijuana failed to create a subcommittee to consider the racial equity implications of marijuana regulation.  The reports released by the Roadway Safety, Education and Taxation and Regulation subcommittees do not have one reference to racial equity. 

We implore you to place social equity and inclusion as a priority, engage those who have been historically adversely impacted and use a data driven approach in the creation of this historic cannabis regulation policy.  Please consider the work done in Illinois, where the trajectory of thousands of lives have been changed since cannabis regulation implementation, in January , 2020. The cannabis taxation and regulation bill enacted in Illinois:

1.      Appoints a Cannabis Oversight Officer;

2.      creates cannabis Business Development Fund; 

3.      provides loans and grants to social equity applicants and offers fee waivers; 

4.      features a funded Restore, Reinvest and Renew Board; 

5.      requires businesses to maintain Social Equity and Inclusion Plans;

6.      funds automatic expungements for low-level cannabis offenses

Proposed language for inclusion into S.54 is forthcoming.

Thank you for considering our request.

Respectfully,

Vermont Racial Justice Alliance

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