November 10, 2014   


SAM-VT calls upon Legislature to utilize evidence-based facts  


Montpelier, Vt.  — A group of concerned Vermonters announced today the formation of SAM- VT, a grassroots coalition opposing the legalization of marijuana.

SAM-VT is a statewide coalition of parents, grandparents, young adults, senior citizens and other concerned Vermonters.The members represent diverse backgrounds including drug &alcohol prevention, youth services, education, law enforcement, mental health and business leaders who agree that marijuana legalization poses a threat to Vermont’s health, economy, youth, education, highway safety and work force.

“The evidence is mounting that marijuana is addictive and harmful to the users and especially harmful to adolescents,” said Debby Haskins, executive director of the coalition.

Haskins said emerging science shows that marijuana use is linked not only with addiction, but also with increased highway safety crashes, IQ loss, and poor academic and job performance.   She said that daily users have a 60percent lower chance of graduating from high school.

“That evidence alone should make us concerned – not to mention the significant effects on the developing brain – up to age 25.”

SAM-VT is calling upon on Gov. Peter Shumlin and the Vermont General Assembly to delay consideration of pot legalization this legislative session, and focus instead on budget, education and other health care priorities.

The coalition has contracted with Ellis Mills Public Affairs to help manage its campaign.

“Why would we legalize another mind-altering drug in the midst of an opiate epidemic?” Haskins said.   “There is too much to learn about marijuana before we can safely legalize another mind altering drug.’’

Mary Alice McKenzie, a coalition member and executive director of the Burlington Boys & Girls Club, said: “Vermont needs to determine public health policy by evidence-based scientific inquiry, not by politics or personal anecdotes.”  She also said that for  “every $1 gained in alcohol and tobacco tax revenue, we lose $10 in social costs.  We are fooling ourselves to think marijuana legalization will solve our state’s fiscal worries.”

George Merkel, chief of police in Vergennes, president of the Vermont Police Chief’s Association and SAM-VT member cited statistics showing that there has been an increase in fatal traffic accidents involving drivers under the influence of marijuana. He said those car crashes jumped in Colorado from 4.1 percent to 10 percent of all crashes since legalization in that state.

The coalition plans to educate Vermonters around such issues as:



  • Legalization sends the wrong message that marijuana is safe.
  • Nearly 10% of those who try marijuana become dependent on it — and the proportion rises to 1 in 6 for those who try it first as adolescents.
  • Regular marijuana use in adolescence nearly doubles the risk of being diagnosed with schizophrenia or reporting psychotic symptoms in adulthood.5
  • The rate of emergency department visits involving marijuana has increased 52% since 2004.1


  • The cost of treating Vermonters for marijuana use disorders is more than $2 million.
  • Federal or state taxes levied on marijuana will not pay for the increased costs – highway accidents, mental health treatments, family social services, and lost wages – that would result from more use and abuse.
  • Marijuana legalization will usher in corporate interests that are difficult to control.  Big Tobacco will become Big Marijuana.


  • Employee marijuana is linked with increased absences, tardiness, accidents, workers’ comp claims, and job turnover. 17
  • The effects of marijuana on the human brain are widespread and chronic use interferes with the ability to do college work or hold down a technical job.



  • Increasing levels of marijuana use are consistently associated with lower grade point averages and poor school performance.
  • Marijuana use contributes to college students skipping more class, lower grades, dropping out of college and being unemployed after college. 
  • Regular marijuana use that begins in adolescence and continues throughout young adulthood produces intellectual impairment.



  • Young people equate “legal” with “safe”, which will lead to increased marijuana use.
  • Marijuana use in adolescents and young adults – up to age 25 – alters the development of the brain.
  • Persistent marijuana use during adolescence can cause a long-term 8-point drop in IQ, and harm attention span and memory.9
  • More teens in Vermont enter treatment for marijuana dependence than for all other illicit drugs combined.11


  • Marijuana smokers had a 10-fold increase in car crash injury. 15
  • Marijuana is the most prevalent illegal drug detected in impaired drivers, fatally injured drivers, and motor vehicle crash victims. 
  • There is currently no reliable means to test at roadside for impairment caused by marijuana use. 

SAM-VT is encouraging Vermonters to get involved.

“If you care about Vermont’s health, economy, youth, education, highway safety and work force, you need to care about marijuana legalization,’’ Haskins said.

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