Posts tagged ‘Vermont’

What Gay Marriage in Vermont Means for Marijuana Legalization in Massachusetts

This is not the ‘liberalism is winning in one New England state so therefore it’ll win in the rest!!’ argument.

Rather, I am drawing this from the very end of a front-page New York Times article from Wednesday, the day after Vermont voted to override Governor Jim Douglas’s veto of a gay marriage bill.

The bill would have been a few votes shy of the required number for a veto, but three Democrats switched their positions and voted in favor of a veto. Representatives Jeff Young and Robert South were among the two who reversed their earlier votes.

Unfortunately, the online version of the article (linked above) leaves out the very last sentence from the print version, and I can’t seem to find an online copy of the printed version anywhere. (If anyone can search the NYTimes database more efficiently than I can and finds it, please let me know). This is the conclusion as printed on April 8:

Representative Robert South, a freshman Democrat from a conservative district, said he reversed his position after 228 of his constituents reached out and urged him to support the override, compared with 198 who urged him to oppose it.

“It was very difficult for me,” Mr. South said, “because the marraige equality bill, as far as I’m concerned, has split the state. I see how close my numbers are for and against same-sex marriage, and it’s divided my constituents, and that’s what upsets me.”

He added that he might well lose his seat over the vote, saying, “I probably sealed my fate.”

Emphasis is mine. What we have here is proof positive that, given enough pressure, legislators can willing to change their minds. Furthermore, we have proof that, for state legislators, the difference between a ‘yay’ and a ‘nay’ can be very, very small: in this case, a margin of 30 people. This is a great example of the multiplying effect of contacting your elected officials – when you place a phone call, your efforts do not just represent one person. Rather, they stand in for the opinions of several others as well.

‘Sobering Suzie’ may be right, as I pointed out, that the Massachusetts bills to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana may not stand a chance at the moment. (House Bill 2929 and Senate Bill 1801). But that does not mean that the probabilites are fixed – if all it takes is a margin of 30 people to swing a single legislator’s vote to override a veto that protects the civil liberties in an entire state, then the odds are in our favor. I am willing to bet that we have enough constituents in Massachusetts willing to pressure their legislators into sponsoring the bill. (Check your legislators’ names and contact information). The same applies to any other farfetched drug policy reform legislation in any other state. The odds are a challenge, not an obstacle, and, from the looks of it, a very feasible challenge at that.

April 9, 2009 at 11:40 am 1 comment


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