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Monday, September 21, 2020

Burlington-Area Sex Trafficker Sentenced to 22 Years in Prison

Posted By on Mon, Sep 21, 2020 at 5:35 PM

  • Burlington Police Department
  • Brian Folks
A man convicted last year of using opioids to coerce women into prostitution was sentenced on Monday to more than two decades in federal prison.

A jury previously found Brian Folks, 45, guilty of 13 felonies related to sex and drug rings that federal prosecutors said he operated in the Burlington area between 2012 and 2016.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Vermont Lawmakers Strike a Deal on Retail Pot Bill

Posted By on Wed, Sep 16, 2020 at 10:23 AM

  • Luke Eastman
Lawmakers have struck a deal on the bill that would legalize cannabis sales in Vermont, ending weeks of negotiations and bringing the state closer than ever to setting up a regulated retail market.

House and Senate members of the S.54 conference committee signed off on their compromise proposal late Tuesday after settling two outstanding issues related to local funding and advertising, according to Rep. John Gannon (D-Wilmington).

They agreed to provide towns a share of the state's cannabis licensing fees instead of the tax revenue model preferred by the Senate. In exchange, the House dropped a controversial — and constitutionally dubious — all-out ban on weed advertising. Terms of the deal were first reported in the Bennington Banner.

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Friday, September 11, 2020

Vermont House Votes to Approve Marijuana Expungements by Wide Margin

Posted By on Fri, Sep 11, 2020 at 6:45 PM

  • Luke Eastman
The Vermont House on Friday gave preliminary approval to a bill that would automatically expunge thousands of low-level marijuana convictions and allow people to possess and grow twice as much of the drug without being charged with a crime.

The two cannabis-related measures were included in a miscellaneous judiciary bill that passed the chamber by an overwhelming margin. Final action is expected next week before it then heads to the Senate, where lawmakers passed a similar decriminalization bill in May and have expressed support for the expungement concept.

"We have approximately 10,000 Vermonters who continue to struggle to live, work, find a house, raise their families and be productive members of society with that cloud of a past nonviolent low-level marijuana conviction hanging over their heads," Rep. Tom Burditt (R-Rutland) said prior to Friday's virtual House vote, which was 113 to 10.

The bill is "also a critical component of the movement towards racial justice in cannabis policy," he added, referencing how marijuana charges have disproportionately impacted people of color throughout the United States for decades.

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Friday, September 4, 2020

Lawmakers Nearing Agreement on Retail Cannabis Sales Bill

Posted By on Fri, Sep 4, 2020 at 9:03 PM

Sen. Dick Sears (D-Bennington) - JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • Jeb Wallace-brodeur
  • Sen. Dick Sears (D-Bennington)
Lawmakers are nearing a deal on legislation that would set up a retail cannabis marketplace in Vermont, settling a number of core issues on Friday involving road safety, advertising and local control.

Two main points of contention remain between the two chambers.  The House wants towns to get a share of the state's cannabis licensing fees, while the Senate wants municipalities that host cannabis businesses to receive a share of tax revenue — an amount equal to a 2 percent tax. Questions also remain over what land-use exemptions should apply to cannabis cultivators.

"It appears that we are probably extremely close on everything" except those issues, Sen. Dick Sears (D-Bennington) said on Friday during a meeting between the House and Senate negotiating teams.

While bills have died over less, the conference committee's significant progress Friday suggests that the bill has a good chance of moving during this month's brief budget session.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Lawmakers Try to Hash Out Competing Versions of Cannabis Bill

Posted By on Wed, Aug 19, 2020 at 6:47 PM

The waiting is the hardest part. - FILE: LUKE EASTON
  • File: Luke Easton
  • The waiting is the hardest part.
The lawmakers seeking common ground on ways to establish a legal recreational cannabis market in Vermont opened their first meeting Wednesday by stressing how much they agree on.

“We’re here today to discuss differences between the bodies,” Rep. John Gannon (D-Wilmington) said. “But I think it’s important to appreciate how fundamentally close we are in many ways with respect to the bill.”

Sen. Dick Sears (D-Bennington) said that many of the differences amounted to little more than “word-smithing” that could be ironed out easily enough.

But it quickly became clear the House and Senate remain deeply divided on a number of core issues that could prove significant hurdles to forging a compromise during the brief upcoming legislative budget session.

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Thursday, February 27, 2020

Vermont House Approves Selling Weed — But Not Advertising It

Posted By on Thu, Feb 27, 2020 at 5:59 PM

  • Luke Eastman
The Vermont House on Thursday gave final approval to a bill that would create a legalized retail marijuana market, but not before amending it to ban virtually all weed-related advertising.

Rep. Anne Donahue (R-Northfield), who proposed the amendment, told her colleagues on the House floor that allowing cannabis advertisements goes against what she believes is the bill's main intent.

"The purpose of the bill is safety for current users," Donahue said. "If there are more people who start using because they see ads, that means there are more people potentially on the highway driving impaired; there are more children exposed — the negative things that we don't want to see happening."

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Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Vermont Cannabis Bill Heads Back to House Committee for Updates

Posted By on Wed, Jan 29, 2020 at 4:19 PM

Rep. Sarah Copeland Hanzas (D-Bradford) during a press conference on S.54 earlier this month - COLIN FLANDERS
  • Colin Flanders
  • Rep. Sarah Copeland Hanzas (D-Bradford) during a press conference on S.54 earlier this month
A bill that would legalize the retail sale of cannabis in Vermont is moving backward. After a stint in the House Ways and Means Committee, S.54 is headed — again — to the House Government Operations Committee for another round of edits.

But while the move means the bill will face another committee vote on its long-awaited path to the floor, a key lawmaker says the return-to-sender is actually a positive development.

“It means that we have completed the 360-degree view from every single policy committee who has jurisdiction over a section of this bill, and we have now found a way to incorporate their recommendations,” said Rep. Sarah Copeland Hanzas (D-Bradford), who chairs Gov Ops and has been an avid supporter of S.54. “It strengthens the bill's path forward.”

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Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Burlington Will Take Part in Nationwide Opioid Lawsuit

Posted By on Tue, Nov 19, 2019 at 7:18 PM

OxyContin on a pharmacy shelf - DREAMSTIME
  • Dreamstime
  • OxyContin on a pharmacy shelf
The City of Burlington has enrolled in a federal class-action lawsuit intended to hold drug manufacturers and distributors accountable for their role in the nationwide opioid crisis.

Burlington joins St. Albans, Bennington and more than 2,500 cities, counties and Native American tribes in the “multi-district lawsuit” that will be heard in U.S. District Court in Ohio. By taking no formal action Monday night, the Burlington City Council automatically enrolled the city in the suit against 13 defendants, including Purdue Pharma, Cardinal Health, McKesson Corporation, Cephalon, CVS, Rite Aid and others.

“This is unlike any previous mass tort litigation," Burlington City Attorney Eileen Blackwood wrote in a memo to the council. "Individual cities, town[s], and counties across the country are pursuing claims against the same major defendants to recover money to help fight the epidemic and fund prevention and treatment programs."

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Thursday, September 12, 2019

AG Donovan: Vermont Rejected Purdue Pharma Settlement Offer

Posted By on Thu, Sep 12, 2019 at 1:30 PM

Attorney General T.J. Donovan - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-brodeur
  • Attorney General T.J. Donovan
Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan says the state has rejected a massive settlement offer from opioid maker Purdue Pharma.

The Connecticut-based company reportedly reached a tentative agreement on Wednesday with half of the states and local governments that have filed suit against the OxyContin maker and its owners, the Sacklers. That deal “would have Purdue file for a structured bankruptcy and pay as much as $12 billion over time, with about $3 billion coming from the Sackler family,” the Associated Press reported.

But on Thursday morning, Donovan said in a statement that the state rejected the offer because the amount of money to be paid is not yet settled, and the deal “is not fully developed and we want to be certain that any benefit is not illusory.”

“Vermont demands more certainty and guarantees regarding the money in order to effectively address the opioids crisis in Vermont,” Donovan wrote.
The AG also blasted the idea of the company declaring bankruptcy, saying the business could shutter and sell its assets instead.

“I want to be sure that billionaires can’t use bankruptcy court as a vehicle to avoid accountability,” Donovan wrote.

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Thursday, August 22, 2019

Ridin' High Owners Accused of Dealing Pot From Burlington Skate Shop

Posted By on Thu, Aug 22, 2019 at 6:08 PM

Ridin' High Skate Shop - FILE: MATTHEW THORSEN
  • File: Matthew Thorsen
  • Ridin' High Skate Shop
Updated on August 23, 2019.

The owners of Ridin' High Skate Shop, John Van Hazinga and Samantha Steady, face federal conspiracy charges for growing marijuana and selling it out of their eccentric Burlington storefront, according to an indictment unsealed Thursday.

It's the second downtown business to be raided this year for dealing pot.

The feds allege Van Hazinga, also known as "Big John," and Steady ran a grow operation at their Underhill home, then sold the drug and THC-infused edibles out of their skateboard shop at the corner of Pearl and Battery streets, within sight of the Burlington police headquarters.

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