Published: November 19, 2014 at 4:18 PM

Vermont Coalition Opposed to Marijuana Legalization Joins National Organization

MONTPELIER — A newly-formed group of concerned Vermonters opposed to the legalization of marijuana announced today that it has affiliated with a national organization with the same mission. The national group, Smart Approaches to Marijuana, now has a presence here as SAM-VT.

“By aligning with SAM, we can take advantage of their incredible knowledge base, research and skills,” said Deborah Haskins, executive director of SAM-VT. “And we can work more closely with other New England SAM members, reinforcing each other’s strengths and commitment.”

Kevin Sabet, co-founder of SAM and a nationally known drug policy expert, said the organization is thrilled to have Vermont on board. Sabet said that SAM seeks to “neither legalize or demonize marijuana,” but aims instead to have a “frank, science-based national conversation” on the subject. “We applaud Vermont for joining this conversation,” he said. SAM counts about two dozen state affiliates, including all six New England states.

SAM-VT (formerly SMART Vermont) is a statewide coalition of parents, grandparents, young adults, senior citizens and other concerned Vermonters. The members represent diverse backgrounds including drug and 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 Haskins.

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 60 percent lower chance of graduating from high school.

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.

You can learn more, sign up for email alerts and make a donation at SAM-VT.org or like the organization on Facebook at facebook.com/samvt.org.