In a letter to state senators on Tuesday, a diverse group of more than a dozen local clergy and faith leaders from across Vermont expressed support for legislation that would end marijuana prohibition in the state and regulate the cultivation and sale of marijuana for adult use. The bill, S. 241, is expected to receive a full Senate vote this week.
The full letter, including a list of signatories, is pasted at the bottom of this release.
In the letter, the faith leaders say they believe they have "a moral obligation to support change" because the state's current marijuana prohibition laws "have caused more harm than good for the people of Vermont" and they are "disproportionately enforced against the poor and people of color."
"As those who teach compassion and love, we believe the harm associated with marijuana can best be minimized through a regulated system that emphasizes education, prevention, and treatment rather than punishment," they said. "For these reasons, we support S. 241, the proposal to end marijuana prohibition and regulate marijuana in Vermont."
- 241 would make it legal for adults 21 years of age and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and establish a tightly controlled system of licensed marijuana cultivation sites, testing facilities, and retail stores.
"Prohibition places power in the hands of drug cartels and organized crime," said Rev. Elissa Johnk of Middlesex, one of the clergy members who signed the letter. "Regulation places it in the hands of law and health officials. Prohibition encourages disregard for the rule and role of law, particularly as its enforcement disproportionately and drastically affects people of color."
Full letter from Vermont faith leaders to the members of the Vermont Senate:
To the Honorable Members of the Vermont Senate,
What we punish people for and how we punish them are moral questions. When a policy that involves punishment fails to meet its objectives and causes harm to those it is intended to protect, we believe we have a moral obligation to support change.
Laws that punish otherwise law-abiding adults simply for using marijuana have caused more harm than good for the people of Vermont. They have also been disproportionately enforced against the poor and people of color.
As those who teach compassion and love, we believe the harm associated with marijuana can best be minimized through a regulated system that emphasizes education, prevention, and treatment rather than punishment.
For these reasons, we support S. 241, the proposal to end marijuana prohibition and regulate marijuana in Vermont.
Rev. Barnaby Feder, Champlain Valley Unitarian Universalist Society, Middlebury
Roy V. Hill, II, president, Vermont Ecumenical Council and Bible Society, Burlington
Rev. Elissa Johnk, Middlesex
Cantor Kate Judd, Brattleboro Area Jewish Community, Brattleboro
Rev. Dr. M'ellen Kennedy, Springfield Unitarian Universalist Church, Springfield
Pastor Jeremy Kirk, First Congregational Church of West Brattleboro, West Brattleboro
Rev. Earl Kooperkamp, Church of the Good Shepherd, Barre
Rev. Katelyn Macrae, Richmond
Rev. Bert Marshall, Centre Congregational Church, West Brattleboro
Rev. Peter Plagge, Waterbury Congregational Church, Waterbury
Rev. Abigail Stockman, First Church in Barre, Universalist, Barre
Rev. Ken White, College Street Congregational Church, Burlington
Rev. Peggy Yingst, Trinity Lutheran Church, Brattleboro
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The Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana is a broad coalition of citizens, organizations, and businesses working to end marijuana prohibition in Vermont and replace it with a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed. For more information, visit http://www.RegulateVermont.org.