by Rep. Art Peterson
On October 25 a group of state Democrat and Progressive legislators at a State House press conference implored Governor Phil Scott to re-institute a state of emergency due to high corona virus infection numbers. The health and safety of Vermonters was at stake they claimed. Recounting personal stories of how Scott’s call for Vermonters to use ‘personal responsibility’ in the virus fight actually hurt their families, these public officials presented graphs and charts showing how high vaccination rates were not enough and that mask mandates and other measures were needed to keep us safe.
It made me wonder if “health and safety” of our people has always been in the minds of these politicians. I looked at their voting record on two bills passed in the 2019-2020 biennium that will have a huge impact on the health and safety of Vermonters: House Bill 57 (H.57), now Act 47, making it legal in Vermont to get an abortion up to the day of birth, and Senate Bill 54 (S.54), now Act 164, legalizing the growing, manufacturing, and selling of cannabis. Sadly, all the legislators I saw present at the press conference, who were in office at the time, voted for both bills.
Every year in Vermont abortion claims the lives of approximately 1200 babies, far exceeding the two year death total from COVID. It is an unnecessary elective procedure that risks the physical health of the mother, and almost always leaves mental scars that sometimes require years of mental health therapy. Act 47 is a most extreme abortion law. Virtually any stage of pregnancy is covered by this terrible legislation. To vote for it means that you have set aside any care for human life and the health and safety of the mother. Simply put, you cannot claim you care about people and still support this bill.
Just as tobacco use is unhealthy so is the use of marijuana. To smoke it causes unhealthy results. To use it in any form can retard brain development in our youth. Chronic use can cause mental psychosis in many forms. All this has been clearly documented by physicians for years. Last session in the House Healthcare Committee, of which I am a member, we were discussing the problem of children wait times for mental health services. We heard from one of the doctors giving testimony that marijuana use by children is one factor in the rising number of youth mental health cases. And the safety of the traveling public is at risk as more and more people buy and use state sponsored pot and drive under its influence. Again, you can’t claim to care about people if you support a substance as unhealthy and unsafe as cannabis.
In order to help these legislators “walk the talk” when it comes to the health and safety of Vermonters I am asking them to do two things. First and most importantly, join with me and many others to vote NO on Proposal 5, the abortion amendment to our State Constitution. If approved by the state legislature it will be on the ballot in November 2022 for all Vermonters to vote on. This amendment will guarantee that taking life out of a mother’s womb at any stage of pregnancy is a basic human right. Second, support my bill, H164, which would give local control not only for retail marijuana establishments but also for the cultivation, manufacturing, wholesaling, and testing of marijuana. It would allow towns to keep all forms of marijuana out of their jurisdiction, thereby not contributing to the very real health and safety affects that cannabis bring.
Soon COVID will retreat and be a thing of the past, but the abortion and cannabis laws will still be in force, allowing unfettered abortions and encouraging increased cannabis use. As legislators, if we are truly concerned with safety and health, we must show it with how we vote. As lawmakers it is our personal responsibility.
The author is a first-term Republican member of the House of Representatives and U.S. Army veteran representing Clarendon, West Rutland, Wallingford, Tinmouth, and Proctor.