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.
The following is a letter sent on August 20, 2020 to the Vermont Senate Committee on Judiciary from Mark Hughes, Executive Director, Justice for All regarding S.54, an act that would establish a legalized cannabis market in Vermont.
Taxation and regulation of cannabis must be founded upon the principles of addressing the harm caused by the war on drugs and offering an equitable opportunity for Black and Brown folks to engage in the market. This policy misses the first point and does very little for the second. The reason for this is that neither of these principles was considered in the foundation of the policy and very little of what those of us centered in the BIPOC community have offered has been adopted.
From the onset, this process has been plagued with a blatant disregard for addressing these principles. The Marijuana Commission, appointed by the Governor, conducted a statewide tour and produced reports on substance abuse prevention, education and public safety to inform this legislative work. Nowhere in this body of work was there ever mentioned a word of the work required to repair the harm or provide real racial equity in the market.
This global pandemic is exacerbating all of the racial disparities acknowledged by the Attorney General and Human Rights Commissions, across all systems of State government. The murder of George Floyd has created a national racial reckoning. Why is it that the Conference Committee is poised to pass a policy that fails to address the wrongs of the past and does little to provide racial equity for the future for Black and Brown people of Vermont? By definition, systemic racism is the ill-gotten political and economic gains of white people!
We ask that you not pass this bill at this time. We ask that the Marijuana Commission be reconvened and asked to review the role systemic racism has historically played with this “drug” and provide a thorough report in the same manner that reports were provided on substance abuse prevention, education and public safety. We ask that this policy also be informed by the body of work emerging around the racial equity in the cannabis industry, such as the recommendations we previously provided.
Rushing to pass this policy with laser focus on merely its economic benefit to those who hold political and economic power represents an unwillingness to reconcile with prior exploitations and makes you complicit with the continued perpetuation of economic oppression of Black and Brown folks in Vermont. It’s just wrong. We join the voices of the many folks represented by Vermont Growers Association, Trace, the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont, Rural Vermont and the ACLU of Vermont, imploring you not to continue the mistakes that we as a State have made in the past, putting profit before people; particularly at a time such as this.
Finally, please follow the lead of Burlington (recently adopting a Reparations Task Force Resolution) and do the work to pass (H.478), which has been in the House since the beginning of the Biennium. I am including a petition asking you to do the racial equity work on S.54, signed by over 400 people.
We are excited to announce that Justice for All has endorsed Debbie Ingram for the Democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor. During her time in the State Senate, Debbie has distinguished herself as the clear leader on issues of social justice. We are excited about the opportunities that an Ingram Lieutenant Governorship would offer in fighting for racial justice.
Debbie was the lead sponsor on legislation that clarified the prohibition of slavery in the Vermont constitution and permanently changed Columbus Day to Indigenous peoples’ day. Debbie has also led the charge on beginning to collect data to help us continue fighting systemic racism.
Debbie is a compassionate leader and listener who will be able to use the office of Lieutenant Governor to enact real change in Vermont. We are excited about the conversations that Debbie will be able to initiate around the state as Lieutenant Governor and the visionary leadership that she will be able to continue to offer in the State House.
It is a crowded race for Lieutenant Governor this year so getting out to vote is more important than ever! We need to have leaders who will prioritize racial justice. Help make sure we achieve that by voting for Debbie in the Democratic primary on August 11th or by voting early starting on June 27th. For more information on voting early visit the Secretary of State’s website (https://sos.vermont.gov/elections/voters/early-absentee-voting/).
With a crowded field for an election with historically low turnout, you have an opportunity to make a real impact on the outcome! If you’d like to volunteer for Debbie (in a social distancing manner!) please email her campaign manager Bas Phair (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The first is the Corona Virus and the second is the 400 year old pandemic of RACISM!
We’re all in!
Justice For All was started in direct response to the murder of Michael Brown in 2014. Hard stop.
The senseless murders of Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, and George Floyd in Minnesota are a continuation of violence directed against black bodies dating back to pre-United States. Everything that Justice For All has been doing to date has evolved to our tireless work that we do now in eradicating systemic racism. What we know about systemic racism is that if it exists anywhere, it exists everywhere.
As much as we understand that serious reforms in policing must be immediately undertaken, our concerns and directed work on it has and continues to expand across the entirety of the so-called criminal Justice System. Our work also addresses systemic racism in employment, housing, education, health services and economic development. Justice For All, with our policy and outreach arm the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance has been standing on the front line of this struggle for the last five years and we commit to intensify our efforts to bring about transformation of this State at this time where we are needed most.
Note: We’ve pulled in the “Action Corner” from our Vermont Racial Justice Alliance and placed it below to provide some immediate actions that you can take.
Another immediate action that you can take is to financially support the work that we are doing to help us do what we all know must be done – ensure that we recreate this nation to a nation that provides safety, prosperity and Justice For All.
We have submitted a letter to the Governor and legislators calling for a Task Force and directed actions to ensure that people of color in Vermont be provided targeted and immediate support and that increased and specific actions be taken in efforts to dismantle systemic racism. Please contact the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, the President Pro Temp, the Speaker of the house and other legislators and ask them to take the actions that we have outlined in the letter. We can’t go back to the old normal
H.478, the Reparations Task Force Bill. The United Nations Human Rights Council, NAACP, ACLU, National Educational Education Association and the Episcopal Dioceses as well as political figures like Bernie have expressed support for a the Reparations Task Force bill (H.R.40). H.478 is nearly identical to H.R.40 . Please ask the Speaker to make this bill a priority. Send the speaker an email here: email@example.com or leave here a message at 802.828.2228.
H.926, the bill related to ACT 250 (land use) This is the first time in 50 years that there has been a major review of Vermont’s landmark land use bill. There was no mention of land access and equity or environmental justice in what was almost a full year study and report. Fortunately, we intercepted the bill in the house but it was like jumping on a moving train. This will impact people of color in Vermont for years to come. We need to slow this bill down and ask that careful consideration be given to placing racial equity and environmental justice at the center of any Statewide land use laws. You can reach out to the Committee Members of Natural Resources and Energy here
Eradicating Systemic Racism: How’s That Working Out? As we now see the accentuated impact of Corona Virus on communities of color, we have learned that eradicating systemic racism must ALWAYS be at the top of our agenda. In 2017 the State of Vermont passed a law that required the Attorney General, the Human Rights Commission and interested stakeholders to “develop a strategy to address racial disparities within the State systems of education, labor and employment, access to housing and health care, and economic development.” How’s that working out for us? It’s time to examine our original premise, look at our progress, consider new realities and forge ahead with this vitally important work. Panelists include Bor Yang, Executive Director of the Human Rights Commission, David Scherr, Assistant Attorney General.
“People of Color have waited far too long for the equality we promise in word but not deed. It is time to remedy that wrong” ATTORNEY GENERAL AND HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION TASK FORCE ON ACT 54- RACIAL DISPARITIES IN STATE SYSTEMS REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Hidden In Plain Sight: The Truth About Systemic Racism
The Vermont Attorney General And Human Rights Commission Task Force on Act 54 Racial Disparities in State Systems Report in 2017 indicated that “In addition, and likely related to the income disparities, racial disparities have been documented in each of the areas identified in Act 54 (education, labor and employment, housing, healthcare and economic development).” Until we can gain a common understanding of how and why this is happening, there is limited potential for true transformation. Through personal stories and aided with the research of national experts on the matter, Racial Justice Alliance Coordinator, Mark Hughes unpacks systemic racism from several perspectives and discusses solutions.
Have we forgotten that before the pandemic that we were already operating in a health system that delivers disparate outcomes to black folks? African Americans are much more likely to suffer from underlying conditions of heart disease, hypertension, asthma high blood pressure and HIV? With median wealth disparities already at 13:1 (white/black), it shouldn’t be hard to understand why blacks are underinsured, underemployed, more likely to work in service industries (essential workers) and less likely to be able to work form home.
The CDC, which usually reports detailed data on outbreaks is silent on reporting racially, disaggregated data on COVID-19. Last week four United States Senators and Representatives called on the Secretary of Health and Human Services to release race disaggregated data on the COVID-19. No numbers have been released to date. Yesterday we asked the Vermont Health Department to release racially disaggregated data on COVID-19 No response.
Our elected and appointed officials know the devastating adverse economic impact that centuries of systemic racism has dealt black people in the United States. Justice For All has never missed an opportunity to educate them and remind them. We have been doing outreach and education on systemic racism in Vermont for the last five years. In Vermont, the Attorney General and Human Rights Commission authored a report acknowledging the impacts of systemic racism across all State systems of government in 2017. The CDC and our Health Departments have made it abundantly clear that the aforementioned underlying conditions likely will lead to fatal outcomes. Science tells us that the data should be collected. Wisdom tells us that our national and statewide emergency response to COVID-19 must include a plan to provide increased protection and relief for African Americans. Common senses should tell us that to do nothing is tantamount an acceleration of modern day genocide.
We must avoid our natural desire to embrace the anecdotal assertion that this is merely a class issue – it is that and more! We have known that systemic racism has and continues to adversely impact African Americans across all sectors and we now see them dying of COVID-19 at highly disproportionate rates. We call on the Health Commissioner to collect and make public disaggregated COVID-19 data. We call on the Governor to create an Emergency Task Force to address COVID-19 impact on African Americans in Vermont. Legislators, look at the data that is emerging nationally in light of the underlying impact of systemic racism in the United States and Vermont. You must develop policies that include medical, community outreach and education and economic relief approaches that provide immediate enhanced protection to Vermont African Americans and ensure that this work is sustainable in moving forward.
Our Work Continues The work that Justice For All has always involved and continues to be dismantling the root causes of systemic racism, the elimination of poverty and addressing the impacts presented to black and brown and poor people on a daily basis. Systemic racism and poverty are at the heart of the source of COVID-19 and unfortunately these vulnerable demographics are among the chief benefactors of the the most severe impact of the pandemic. Today all of the disparities associated with systemic racism and poverty are being simultaneously exacerbated.
The additional time and attention required for black and brown and poor people to ensure safety, security and basic needs leave little time to acquire vital information or engage community, organizations and far less government. It stands to reason that from this position of preexisting disadvantage, impacted communities are struggling with employment, housing, education, health services access and the challenges with the justice system at much higher rates with exponentially more severe impact. It is for this reason that the work that we do is more important than ever. We are incredibly busy monitoring national, state and local developments on and responses to the pandemic, as well as the impact on constituent communities.
Access to Government, Civic Duties and Public Meetings
One of the challenges that have been identified is the absence of information on ongoing government emergency operations, information on access to public meetings, and the political process. Being connected to, monitoring and participating in the democratic process are now more important than ever. Emerging are facilities and protocols that are increasingly enabling community members visibility and in some cases the ability to provide input. Here are some sources that you can use to stay informed and get engaged.
The Vermont State legislature has been working on a series of actions that will address updating unemployment insurance, establishing emergency medical protocols, authorizing remote open meetings, providing temporary elections procedures and extending vehicle registration deadlines. All of these and the Senate Committees remote voting authorization were passed by the Senate this morning. The House will convene tomorrow to take up this emergency package. You can find more on the ongoing work of the legislature at the site above. The United States legislature has passed legislation that covers unemployment insurance, paid family leave, the SNAP program and Coronavirus testing. Pending in the United Stets legislature is a 2T bill that would provide direct payments, loan deferrals and business tax relief and bailouts. All of this work is continues to unfold.
Calls for the Release of the of Selected Individuals Incarcerated and Detained Pretrial This week we signed off on a letter From the ACLU, regarding the release of selected individuals incarcerated and detained pre-trial, to ensure public health and safety during the COVID-19 Pandemic. The letter states “Vermont has days, not weeks, to take meaningful preventive action.” Prisons across the country are releasing pretrial and vulnerable nonviolent folks to reduce the risk of mass outbreaks in our nation’s corrections system. Our state could do the same with a simple Executive Order. It is hugely important that we take immediate action here. We have a problem that we see will indeed turn into a major issue and there are literally hundreds of both those who are incarcerated and those who work in the corrections system who’s health and safety are on the line. Please call the the Governor now (828-3333) and ask him to sign the order and let them go. Email the Governor here.
Calls for Eviction Moratorium On Wednesday, March 18, the Trump administration announced a moratorium on evictions of single-family homeowners with federally backed mortgages. The moratorium does not apply to the vast majority of renters. Though Vermont courts say that the “consensus” is that judges will not be taking up eviction cases as a priority, judges still retain discretion to take up evictions under “emergency” circumstances and there is no mechanism that otherwise stops any ongoing (or future) eviction. Vermont Digger cited that for now, “the Scott administration is not calling for a statewide eviction moratorium, saying housing subsidies are more urgently needed as a measure to prevent homelessness during the outbreak.” This is not good enough. No one should ever have to worry about losing his or her home, especially in the midst of a global pandemic. Now more than ever is a time to care for the most vulnerable. Please call the the Governor now (828-3333) and ask him to sign an Executive Order placing a moratorium on all evictions. Email the Governor here.
Elections and Open Meetings Laws The Vermont Senate today passed Temporary Elections and Open Meeting Law emergency provisions. The elections provisions waive signature collection process for placement onto the ballot, require mail-in ballots and provide for various extensions amongst other changes. The open meetings provisions state that local governments should meet electronically and provide public access, allow a quorum or more to attend electronically and states that information on how to access the meeting shall be made public. It is incredibly important that all Vermonters are notified of these changes and of future on-line meetings. This must be done accommodating technology and language accessibility disparities in communities of color and those who are underserved. Please request that House amend the COVID-19 Emergency bill with language that states that Voters shall be notified of elections law changes and municipality on-line meetings through United States Postal Service (USPS) or other means and language translations shall be made available. Send the House Government Operations Committee (and leadership) a message at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact your legislator to express your thoughts on any of these issues. Find your legislator here.
From the Director Our analysis is complete and our demands are the same – dismantle systemic racism and eliminate poverty. In everything that we do in moving forward we must create a permanent paradigm shift in beliefs and policy. We do not want a return to the malignant, violent system that through greed has oppressed so many for so long. Nor do we care to replace it with a broken system that uses the remnants of white English colonialism to prop up an oppressive government. Now is an opportunity for us to change the heart and soul of this nation. This is a time when our civil liberties are art risk more than ever. We must continue the work and challenge the system at all levels. Stay busy, encouraged, healthy and connected. This is not a time for retreat. It is a time to stand!
Mr. Kenneth Sikora, Jr. Environmental Program Manager , Mr. Wayne Davis Project Supervisor Vermont Agency of Transportation and all concerned,
This memo is in directed to you out of serious concern surrounding the community engagement process and and the fatally flawed environmental justice review of Champlain Parkway Project. We find it difficult to believe that this $47M highway construction project is moving towards implementation, given this new plan to route traffic across Pine Street, directly through the Maple/King Street neighborhood, the most racially diverse community in Burlington, save the Old North End! We feel that communities of color should have been afforded sufficient opportunity to be a part of discussions on this matter.
Further, it is unacceptable that draconian environmental justice processes are being used as a part of the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on a project with such far-reaching implications. It is our hope that this project is brought to an immediate and indefinite halt that serious consideration may be given to the vast racial demographic and socioeconomic changes happening in Burlington since these plans began and the adverse and disproportionate impact that this project has on one of the most diverse and socioeconomically disadvantaged communities in Burlington.
Most disturbing is that this project blatantly protects white affluent communities at the expense of the health and prosperity of black and brown and poor communities (traffic, pollution and property values). It ignores the fact that the superfund site exists because of the white capitalist greed and is complicit at best in the unwillingness to do what so clearly best for all in addressing the mitigation of the superfund site in conjunction with (or as a condition for) this project. Instead of cleaning the site, the decision has been made instead to run a highway through the middle of the second most diverse community in Burlington? This is wrong.
As the racial demographics of our State continue to change, we owe it to ourselves both morally and economically to create and maintain an environment where black, brown and poor people are safe and made to be able to prosper. We can do better and we must do it now. Stop the project and include the impacted community in planning.
Mark Hughes ED, Justice For All Coordinator, Vermont Racial Justice Alliance e: email@example.com t: @Mark_A_Hughesm: 802.532.3030
You are invited to join us in celebrating Justice For All’s 5th BIRTHDAY! That’s right; five years ago we started with a mission focused on addressing racial disparities in law enforcement. This has taken us on an incredible journey. We have had hundreds of engagements with communities, providing outreach and education on systemic racism across Vermont. Our policy work (with our partners) at the State and local levels has produced unprecedented and impactful change. Come out and celebrate with us and hear what’s next. Don’t miss the Community Chili Cook Off (with prizes), Karaoke contest, games. We’re also going to unveil JFA 4.0. Pst. shhh.. there’s going to be a surprise special guest.
Please bring perishables and can goods for the donations to the Chittenden Food Shelf.
This is the true story of Oscar, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident who wakes up on the morning of December 31, 2008 and feels something in the air. Not sure what it is, he takes it as a sign to get a head start on his resolutions: being a better son to his mother, whose birthday falls on New Year’s Eve, being a better partner to his girlfriend, who he hasn’t been completely honest with as of late, and being a better father to T, their beautiful 4 year old daughter. He starts out well, but as the day goes on, he realizes that change is not going to come easy. He crosses paths with friends, family, and strangers, each exchange showing us that there is much more to Oscar than meets the eye. But it would be his final encounter of the day, with police officers at the Fruitvale BART station that would shake the Bay Area to its very core, and cause the entire nation to be witnesses to the story of Oscar Grant.
Justice For All's Work Continues in the Global Novel COVID-19 Pandemic
Our work is more important than ever now because the COVID-19 pandemic (as with any major crises) amplifies the the impact of systemic racism and poverty on black and brown and poor people. The good news is that the COVID-19 crises is now shining a light on the edifice of structures of oppression, giving our honest selves the fleeting opportunity to earnestly address them. We are working with impacted communities to understand the extent of their challenges and concerns, monitoring national, state and local responses to the pandemic and collaborating with the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance on public policy advocacy. Please do your part in saving lives. Unless absolutely necessary, please stay at home!