Colchester Police Chief Jennifer Morrison is speaking out after last week’s vote in the Vermont House of Representatives to legalize marijuana, calling H.511 — and Gov. Phil Scott’s expressed willingness to sign it — disappointing and ill advised.
“What the [representatives] did is irresponsible,” Morrison said earlier this week. “They’re rushing forward when there is no benefit to rushing forward and no detriment to waiting.”
Both Morrison and Colchester School District Superintendent Amy Minor have seats on the governor’s Marijuana Advisory Commission, serving on the roadway safety and education and prevention subcommittees, respectively.
The group has long been set to issue a progress report on its work thus far this Monday and a final report on December 15.
An amendment to stall the vote until the commission released its report failed 62 to 83 on the House floor, according to a joint press release from the Vt. Police Association, Vt. Sheriffs’ Association and Vt. Association of Chiefs of Police, which Morrison chairs.
Morrison said she was especially discouraged to hear Gov. Scott was not necessarily inclined to wait for the progress report, detailing research and expert opinions on the public safety and youth risk implications of marijuana legalization, before signing on to the legislation.
“Any time that the governor calls for subject matter experts … to come forward and commit time and energy and resources to a very important project I think it’s a matter of respect and common sense that you let that work be completed before you move forward,” Morrison said.
Morrison, in fact, reissued her press release just one day later, noting a lack of media coverage on the chiefs’ position. She said she doesn’t understand why talk of roadway safety moved from the foreground, despite dominating the debate just months ago and prompting Scott to reject similar legislation.
“I didn’t know why the concerns relative to highway safety fell off the radar completely,” she said. “As far as the legislature knows, they don’t have one scintilla more information than they did when they adjourned last spring.”
Morrison said many members of the committee work for the governor and are therefore hesitant to speak out. A veto from Scott, she said, now remains chiefs’ only hope to stop the legalization legislation.
At this point, Morrison said the committee still plans to move forward with its work as assigned. She had yet to speak with the governor at the time of the Sun’s interview.
Colchester Reps. Maureen Dakin (D), Curt Taylor (D) and Pat Brennan (R) voted against the legislation last week. Rep. Jim Condon (D) voted for the measure, according to a roll call posted on the legislature’s website.
The Colchester Selectboard sent a resolution opposing marijuana legalization to the statehouse last May at Morrison’s urging.
The resolution pointed to the statewide “opiate abuse crisis,” lack of a roadside test for marijuana impairment and the strong opposition from law enforcement officials.