As a longtime marijuana activist, I took an informal review of the state of marijuana in Vermont when I came to Brattleboro almost ten years ago. Evidently, marijuana was a very popular drug of choice and commonly used. But I never dreamed that down the road four guys would help to create a refuge from the storm of prosecutorial madness for personal-use possession of marijuana.
In early March 2010 the Brattleboro Reformer published a photograph of Daryl Pillsbury holding a large sign during Election Day that said “Legalize Marijuana.” There was no article.
By itself, it was electrifying.
To see an individual at the corner road that entered the high school just outside of the no electioneering zone, confidently standing by himself, was one of the boldest statements of public intent I’d seen in a while. I called a friend to ask if she knew how to reach him and we soon met at a restaurant on Canal Street.
During our first meeting it was clear to us that people were complacent with the status quo, as long as they were not one of the unfortunate marijuana users to become an arrest statistic.
While Daryl and I agreed that we preferred to work for legalizing marijuana, we knew the Vermont legislature was not about to be the first state to legalize it and, that it could be years before the legislature and the governor would bring legalization to its natural conclusion. As a former state representative, Daryl was an invaluable ally to help understand how things worked in the legislature.
In the meantime, it was those years while waiting for the legislature to catch up to the will of many Vermonters that we needed a mechanism to protect all marijuana consumers from the draconian effects of arrest and incarceration. And, the single-issue movement for decriminalization in Vermont was born.
It was in our Vermont newspapers, particularly the Brattleboro Reformer, Burlington Free Press, the Rutland Herald, Times-Argus and the Bennington Banner, where the public would read about Marijuana Resolve’s awareness outreach to decriminalize marijuana. Our mission was to help protect Vermonters, especially our young people, from a criminal background that followed them throughout life.
Capitol Beat, a weekly column by the Vermont Press Bureau, reported in the Times-Argus in June 2010, “Vidda Crochetta, the state coordinator for Marijuana Resolve, a new Brattleboro-based group that has emerged to push decriminalization, jumpstarted this effort with former state Rep. Daryl Pillsbury, a Brattleboro independent, to see marijuana possession treated as a civil infraction, not a criminal one.”
Subsequently, our first presence on the Internet was here, on iBrattleboro, where we had a chance to air our views and have the public comment on the issue of marijuana. Soon after, MuseArts constructed our website. Likewise, when we discussed producing a cable TV show with BCTV, they were receptive to Daryl and I producing a regular cable program called the Marijuana Resolve Show.
So much of what we did to publicize our outreach was because of Paul Bennett in New York and Joe Bushey here in Brattleboro.
Paul Bennett, as an officer on the Marijuana Resolve board of directors, significantly supported Marijuana Resolve with fundraising and personal participation. When I called Peter Shumlin’s office, at Senator Jeanette White’s urging, during his first campaign for governor in 2010, it was Paul Bennett’s financing skills and personal support that helped Marijuana Resolve to reserve a lecture hall at The University of Vermont in Burlington that August. It was there that Senator Peter Shumlin, then president pro tem of the senate, was the main speaker for Marijuana Resolve’s public discussion of decriminalizing marijuana in Vermont.
Joe Bushey, as a member of Marijuana Resolve’s board of directors, helped to anchor Marijuana Resolve’s online video presence. He readily set up a video cam to capture on film the growing movement to decriminalize marijuana. As a member of BCTV, Joe Bushey volunteered to “learn the board” in the studio control booth and became the producer of the Marijuana Resolve Show. It was his technological skills that put Marijuana Resolve before the viewing public of our local cable network and then aired on public access stations throughout the state.
The four of us steadfastly gave our time, ideas, money and efforts to help educate Vermont communities through public meetings and in the media. And, while Marijuana Resolve was by no means the sole contributor that led to decriminalization, the four of us were, in fact, the avant-garde that set into active-status the progressive marijuana decriminalization movement in our state.
However, it is rare for reformers and activists, each to their own dreams, to see the fruits of their labors. Nevertheless, on June 6, 2013, Governor Peter Shumlin signed the bill which decriminalized possession of an ounce of marijuana in Vermont. To this day, law-abiding, responsible marijuana consumers have protection from potential harm and stigma of the criminal justice system.