With June comes the onset of summer officially, and these lot hot days full of the heady scent of flowers, fully leafed out tree canopies, and the ubiquitous sound of lawnmowers seem to agree. This time of year always gets me thinking about the sheer abundance that exists all around us, and how truly resilient nature really is. Despite all that humans are currently doing to the planet, the flowers still bloom, the dandelions push up through the asphalt, and the forest still yields us wild edibles and medicinals. It’s pretty amazing, and humbling. The end of June is also bringing us a pretty spectacular looking event that is in celebration and honor of the resiliency of nature, and is an exciting convergence of two of my passions — permaculture and cannabis. The Perma-Canna-Culture course at Willow Crossing Farm will be a week long residential exploration of how cannabis can be incorporated into a permaculture design, capped off by Heady Vermont’s Legalization Celebration on July 1st. This event has gotten me reflecting on the three ethics of permaculture and how they might relate to the cannabis industry — these are Earth Care, People Care, and Fair Share.
The cannabis industry has unfortunately not done much to undo this legacy. In many states, having a cannabis conviction in your past bars you from working in the industry, including in Vermont. Wait, what? Wouldn’t you want people with experience growing, processing, and selling cannabis to be on the ground floor of the legal market? Of course you would! So what in reality ends up happening is that only the people who have been privileged enough to get away with their black market activity are able to snag the jobs, while those who were targeted for enforcement are left in the cold. Thank goddess that some folks see the systemic racism and classism in this and have started flipping the script on this. In Massachusetts, for example, licenses are being given preferentially to minorities, folks from targeted communities, and people with past convictions. Similar programs have sprung up in Oakland and Washington DC. Time for Vermont to step up?
Of course, not everyone wants to work in the cannabis industry, and there is certainly other baggage associated with having a criminal record. So maybe the real solution is expungement. In California, under Prop 64 (the bill that legalized adult use) people can petition a court to have their past cannabis-related convictions be either expunged or downgraded. Since having a past conviction can hinder your ability to get a job, find housing, or get a loan, among other things, being able to erase this from your record is huge, and makes total sense given that the crime for which you were convicted has also been erased from the books. Some counties in Vermont are stepping up to this plate — in Chittenden and Windsor counties, “expungement days” have been scheduled in which volunteers from the State’s Attorney’s office and Vermont Law School will be assisting people in completing petitions to have their past convictions expunged from their record. This will take place in Chittenden county on June 12 and in Windsor County on June 9. Now, this is fantastic, but ridiculous that its not happening in every country around the state. I encourage each and every one of you to write to your State’s Attorney Office and demand that they host similar events in your area. Even if you don’t personally have a record, by doing so you are giving back to your neighbors who have helped pave the way for the very existence of a adult use bill in VT.