No Reparative and Equitable Approach to Taxation and Regulation of CannabisBill, S.54; Stop It!

Sent to ALL legislators, September 17, 2020

Policy Makers,

Please say NO to the taxation and regulation bill, S.54.  This bill  has been flawed from start to finish and not only ignores the legislature’s responsibility to repair harm and ensure equity but actually is harmful to African Americans of Vermont.  With little or no access to land or capital, black Vermonters are most severely impacted by this policy.  S.54 also harms small growers by giving medical dispensaries sole access to integrated licenses and a jumpstart on market access. The bill does not consider cannabis cultivation agriculture, excluding most land and infrastructure in agricultural easements and current use, and most farmers from having equitable access to this crop and a market that could support their farm income.

  • No research was conducted by the Marijuana Commission on the historical adverse impact of marijuana on African Americans or the impact of systemic racism on the cannabis industry (they did provide reports on Taxation and Regulation, Road Safety and Education).
  • Despite proposals from the racial justice and emerging grower advocates there has been no significant language to address the historical impact, industry systemic racism or disadvantage that small farmers suffer in this market.
  • The Conference Committee has ignored numerous requests to provide adequate reparative and equity language.
  • Symbolic gestures including the passage of a separate expungement bill, mild licensing concessions  and Cannabis Control Board appointments do little to address the true harm or provide equitable opportunity.
  • The fact that the bill calls for the Cannabis Control Board (yet to be created) to provide recommendations to the legislature to address reparative and equity language indicates that they have not done their homework.
  • The final discussions that concluded the Conference Committee were not made available to the public resulting in our discovery of the final agreement by way of out-of-state pro-policy lobbyists.  

S.54 fails to address in any significant way the devastating historical social and economic impact of marijuana on African Americans, the current impact of systemic racism on the cannabis industry or the disadvantages of emerging growers!  In short, black people and small farmers are not made whole and fail to economically benefit from this bill.  Again.  Even now, in what is a national racial reckoning, we’re still doing this?  The passage of this bill exacerbates the economic oppression of black folks who already have a median wealth of 1/13th that of white people.  This is wrong and we all know that it is wrong. 

It is reprehensible that despite a double pandemic that is exacerbating the impact of systemic racism on black and brown bodies that this policy is still being moved forward. It makes no sense that small farmers would also be disadvantaged by big industry.  Please stop placing profit over black and otherwise economically disadvantaged Vermonters and ensure that this policy addresses harm and provides everyone an opportunity to thrive.

Do NOT advance S.54 this year. Engage with disproportionately impacted communities and charge the Marijuana Commission to provide the analysis to enable a data-driven approach in shaping just and equitable tax and regulate legislation. When you know better, do better. Now is the time to do better.


Mark Hughes, ED
Justice For All