Tag Archives: Vermont

Vermont Becomes First State To Approve Imported Canadian Prescription Drugs

Vermont is the first state in the country to approve a program commissioning the importation of prescription drugs from Canada with the passage of a bill approved by the House and Senate and signed into law May 16 by Republican Governor Phil Scott.

As several other US states have been working on similar bills, Vermont was the first state to sign such legislation into law. The bill was reportedly based upon legislation previously drafted by National Academy for State Health Policy; the organization estimated that the cost of prescription drugs in Canada are about 30 percent lower.

The bipartisan bill, which had unanimous support in the Senate and a 141-2 vote in the House, calls for the development of a “wholesale prescription drug importation program” that meets the following conditions:

(1) designate a State agency that shall either become a licensed drug wholesaler or contract with a licensed drug wholesaler in order to seek federal certification and approval to import safe prescription drugs and provide significant prescription drug cost savings to Vermont consumers;

(2) use Canadian prescription drug suppliers regulated under the laws of Canada or of one or more Canadian provinces, or both;

(3) ensure that only prescription drugs meeting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s safety, effectiveness, and other standards shall be imported by or on behalf of the State;

(4) import only those prescription drugs expected to generate substantial savings for Vermont consumers;

(5) ensure that the program complies with the tracking and tracing requirements of 21 U.S.C. §§ 360eee and 360eee-1 to the extent feasible and practical prior to imported drugs coming into the possession of the State
wholesaler and that it complies fully after imported drugs are in the possession of the State wholesaler;

(6) prohibit the distribution, dispensing, or sale of imported products outside Vermont’s borders;

(7) recommend a charge per prescription or another method of support to ensure that the program is funded adequately in a manner that does not jeopardize significant consumer savings; and

(8) include a robust audit function.

During his campaign, President Donald Trump advocated for the ability for Americans to purchase prescription drugs from other countries including Canada; he has appeared to abandon this idea, illustrated by a recent address given by Trump on May 11 discussing his “American Patients First” plan to seek lower drug prices. The speech did not make any mention of allowing the purchase of imported drugs and focused instead on giving “private entities more tools to negotiate better deals on behalf of consumers, insurers and employers,” according to a report from the New York Times.

While the Trump administration has not publicly commented specifically on the bill’s enactment, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar described importing drugs from other countries as a “gimmick” on Monday.

“The United States has the safest regulatory system in the world. The last thing we need is open borders for unsafe drugs in search of savings that cannot be safely achieved,” Azar said according to Politico. “You can’t improve competition and choice in our drug markets with gimmicks like these — you have to boost competition and price transparency.”

Azar also argued that “Canada simply doesn’t have enough drugs to sell them to us for less money, and drug companies won’t sell Canada or Europe more just to have them imported here.” He claimed that the FDA also has concerns that there is no “effective way to ensure drugs coming from Canada really are coming from Canada, rather than being routed from a counterfeit factory in China.”

Azar was the president of the U.S. division of global pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly & Co. from 2012 to 2017.

The law was met with opposition from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, (PhRMA) as spokeswoman Caitlin Carroll called promotion of the Vermont legislation “highly irresponsible” and warned of an increase in counterfeit drugs.

An amendment put forth by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) last January sought to allow for the purchase of drugs from Canada, but failed in a 46-52 vote. In February 2017, Sanders and Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced the Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act “to help lower the rising cost of prescription drugs by allowing Americans to import safe, low-cost medicine from Canada and other advanced countries.”

Vermont’s new law is subject to federal approval, as it specifies that Vermont’s importation program must be developed by the Secretary of Human Services, and submitted to the House Committees on Health Care and on Ways and Means and the Senate Committees on Health and Welfare and on Finance, by January 1, 2019. A subsequent formal request would need to be submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services by July 1, 2019 for certification.

Vermont Police No Longer Training K9s to Detect Marijuana

A report from the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus revealed that Vermont’s police force has stopped training its police dogs to detect the odor of marijuana.

According to the Times Argus, this is the first year that marijuana detection has not been part of the regular training of the state’s police dogs. The paper reported that the decision was partially influenced by the likelihood that Vermont will legalize marijuana in the near future, which would lead to the possibility that re-training police dogs to cease detecting marijuana would exhaust additional time and resources.

Montpelier Police Chief Anthony Facos explained that if Vermont legalizes marijuana, “All local and state dogs would need to be replaced at significant cost to the state police and to municipalities that would have to get new dogs that were not trained to alert for marijuana.”

Robert Ryan, the K-9 training coordinator in Vermont, noted that “if for some reason it doesn’t become legalized, it’s an odor that (dogs) can be trained to alert on later.”

Dogs currently trained to detect marijuana would still be used in the state for regulatory purposes such as searches at high schools and prisons, and also for police work at the federal level.

Vermont’s legalization bill continued to move forward on Friday, as the Senate Finance Committee approved the bill 6-1.

The bill, sponsored by Democrat Sen. Jeanette K. White, would legalize the possession of marijuana for individuals over the age of 21, and implement a “controlled system of licensed marijuana cultivation sites, testing facilities, and retail stores,” according to MyChamplainValley.com.

The Burlington Free Press reported that the Finance Committee decided to propose a 25 per cent tax for marijuana, and changed the original proposed legal amount of possession from one ounce to a half-ounce.

The Times Argus reported that the state Senate may vote on the bill as soon as next week.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders Enters the Presidential Race

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has announced that he will seek the Democratic nomination for the 2016 presidential race.

Early Thursday morning, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders told the Associated Press that he would be seeking the Democratic nomination for the office of President of the United States. Sanders also sent out an email to his supporters and media announcing his intentions.

Sanders began his political career in the early 70’s, running as an anti-Vietnam War candidate with the Liberty Union Party in Vermont. In 1981, the was elected as the Mayor of Burlington. In 1990, he was elected to the House of Representatives and in 2005 he was elected to the Senate. The Senator runs as an Independent, but caucuses with the Democratic Party. He is the longest-serving independent in the history of the U.S. Congress.

Despite working closely with the Democratic Party and running as an independent, Sanders self-identifies as a Democratic Socialist. He plans to release “very specific proposals” regarding raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans and corporations. He also previously said he supports free education at public colleges and universities and universal healthcare. The Senator has also voted against the controversial Keystone XL pipeline and spoken against the Trans-Pacific Partnership. So far, Hilary Clinton, Rand Paul and other presidential candidates have either supported the TPP or been wary to speak against the trade agreement. The Senator has also consistently spoken about breaking up Wall Street banks and keeping corporations accountable to the people.

One of his more contentious proposals is a national minimum wage of at least fifteen dollars. The Senator has called for giving every American a “living wage” to help those struggling in the face of inflation, and a widening gap between the rich and poor. However, the effects of a fifteen dollar minimum wage are already being seen in places like Seattle.

Barry Donnegan reports:

“A Z Pizza franchise in Seattle employing 12 people has announced that it will close in August due to financial pressure caused by Seattle’s $15 per hour minimum wage hike.

 The franchise’s owner, Ritu Shah Burnham, described the efforts she’s already taken to adapt to the phased increase to the new $11 minimum hourly wage, “I’ve let one person go since April 1, I’ve cut hours since April 1, I’ve taken them myself because I don’t pay myself.” However, the fact that her 12-employee business has a franchise relationship with Z Pizza means that, under the new minimum wage law, she is required to retool her business such that it can stay open while paying employees $15 per hour within just 2 years, rather than being able to wait until 2021 like other small businesses, a feat Burnham says she can not manage. “I know that I would have stayed here if I had 7 years, just like everyone else, if I had an even playing field. The discrimination I’m feeling right now against my small business makes me not want to stay and do anything in Seattle,” she said.”

Another area where Sanders is sure to receive criticism from his supporters and libertarians, is his support of Israel.

In July of 2014, Sanders voted with the rest of the Senators in support of a Senate resolution that called for supporting “the State of Israel as it defends itself against unprovoked rocket attacks from the Hamas terrorist organization.” He would later excuse the Israeli attacks on civilian populations in Gaza by saying that missiles were being fired from populated areas in Gaza into Israel.

CounterPunch News reported:

“However, the facts differ.

A report issued by the authoritative the “Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center” (ITIC), a private Israeli think tank that “has close ties with the country’s military leadership,” unintentionally debunked the Senate resolution more than a week before its unanimous consent vote in the Senate. The weekly ITIC reports regarding rocket fire are frequently quoted on the Israeli government’s own web site.

The ITIC July 8, 2014 report,“News of Terrorism and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (July 2 – 8, 2014),” states: “For the first time sinceOperation Pillar of Defense [November 2012], Hamas participated in and claimed responsibility for rocket fire [on July 7, 2014].”

Thus, Hamas rocket fire only re-started on July 7after a 19 month cease-fire. As we will see, this was nearly a month after Israeli forces launched massive military operations in the West Bank and Gaza starting on June 12. But those Israeli military operations were not the only provocation.”

In August 2014 Sanders was confronted by supporters at a town hall in Vermont regarding his position on Israel. He stated he felt Israel “overreacted” by bombing United Nations schools, but became irate when members of the audience challenged him.“Excuse me! Shut up! You don’t have the microphone,” he told the audience.

However, Sanders would go on to boycott Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress in March.

Even if Sanders can get Americans to look past his position on Israel, he might not be able to run in the New Hampshire primary. CNN reported:

“William Gardner, who has guarded the state’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary for four decades as Secretary of State, said he isn’t sure whether Sanders meets the state’s requirement to be on the presidential ballot.

“If they’re going to run in the primary, they have to be a registered member of the party,” Gardner told CNN. “Our declaration of candidacy form that they have to fill out says ‘I am a registered member of the party.'”

Gardner, who takes pride in personally greeting all presidential candidates in the fall when they file their paperwork at the State Capitol in downtown Concord, N.H., stopped short of saying Sanders would be excluded from the 2016 Democratic primary ballot. But he said he did not know how Sanders could answer the simple question on the form: Are you a registered Republican or Democrat?

“We have only two legal parties in New Hampshire,” Gardner said in an interview. “The primary is only for those legal parties.”

On the surface Bernie Sanders seems to be more of champion for the people than most of the other candidates. He espouses positions that warm the heart of the working class, and give hope to those struggling to survive as the rich get richer. But will his policies lead to an increase in the size of government? Would a Sanders Presidency end the War on Terror? Would President Sanders put an end to the mass surveillance being conducted by the NSA?

Certainly Bernie Sanders offers potential voters on the left a better option than Hilary Clinton, and perhaps even Rand Paul, but is voting for the lesser evil a strategy Americans should really be considering? We have to ask ourselves if any of the candidates truly represent our interests or if we are simply settling and hoping that one more vote will change the dangerous direction the United States is heading.

Vermont Abandons Single-Payer Health Care Plan

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin announced on Wednesday that he is abandoning attempts to implement a single-payer health care plan that would have made Vermont the first state in the country to establish a publicly-financed health care system.

In his prepared statement, he acknowledged that “as we completed the financing modeling in the last several days, it became clear that the risk of economic shock is too high at this time to offer a plan I can responsibly support for passage in the legislature.”

“I know this is a huge disappointment to many Vermonters,” Shumlin wrote in a blog post about his abrupt reversal on an issue that was the cornerstone of his campaign and re-election. “I know because I am one of those Vermonters who has fought for this to succeed.”

According to Shumlin, projections of federal money that would aid in establishing the system were vastly overestimated and wrote that “In the last several months, we have also learned that the amount of federal funds available to Vermont for this transition is over $150 million less than we had anticipated. Additionally, the slow recovery from the Great Recession has tightened our state budget and caused us to not meet the goals we had set forth for increases in Medicaid provider payments, adding more than $150 million to the amount we would need to raise through public financing.”

Single-payer health care, a campaign promise made by Shumlin in his 2010 gubernatorial bid, was signed into law in May 2011 and called Green Mountain Care. Attempts to create the system became increasingly difficult, most notably due to the lack of a concrete financing plan behind it. A financing plan for Green Mountain Care was due in January 2013, yet there was none proposed after the deadline passed. A pledge to create one earlier this year was also unfulfilled. In August, Rep. Cynthia Browning (D-Arlington) filed a lawsuit against the state to challenge Shumlin’s use of executive privilege that was obstructing public access to information discussing financing plans for the system.

Shortly after his re-election in November, Shumlin was continuing to reassure residents that his administration would introduce “a smart plan to spend less money for better outcomes with a more fair way of paying for health care where everybody has health care as a right, not a privilege.”

However, Shumlin said it wasn’t until last Friday that that he realized the costs involved in implementing the plan could be disastrous:

The cost of that plan turned out to be enormous, requiring an 11.5% payroll tax on all Vermont businesses and a public premium assessment of up to 9.5% of individual Vermonters’ income. Further, the phase-in for smaller businesses and those that do not currently offer insurance would add an additional $500 million to the system. These are tax rates that I cannot responsibly support or urge the Legislature to pass. In my judgment, the potential economic disruption and risks would be too great to small businesses, working families and the state’s economy.

Supporters of Shumlin’s single-payer plan were predictably disgruntled. “Clearly, a political decision was made not to raise adequate revenue from big businesses and from wealthy folks to fund this thing. The money is going in right now primarily from large employers and the money is there, and it’s just the political will of being able to raise the taxes,” said Vermont Workers Center director James Haslam.

Dr. Deb Richter, a Montpelier doctor and proponent of single-payer health care, said that “we’re going to need a slower phase-in of this” and the plan’s failure was due to “trying for the whole thing all at once.”

Rep. Browning, the legislator who filed the suit against the state, said “Welcome to reality, Governor. From what I can see at first take, all of the problems to which he refers were apparent and valid concerns back in 2011.”

House minority leader Don Turner (R-Milton) said in a statement that “This ideological experiment was an egregious waste of taxpayer dollars. The governor has spent millions of your taxpayer dollars with nothing to show for it. It is unlikely that a single Vermonter will see an improvement in their health care services or reduction in health care expenses as a result of these wasted dollars. Just imagine what could have been done for every Vermonter with that amount of money.”

Shumlin wrote that this announcement does not mean the end of a possible single-payer plan in the future and wrote that “while the time is not right today, we must not give up on health care reform.”

“Those reforms can and must continue, and our success will lay the groundwork for future efforts to implement a publicly-financed health care system. While now is not the right time for Vermont to take such a step, the time will come.”


Exclusive: Libertarian Candidate Wants To Stop Vermont’s Single-Payer Health Care


If you thought that Obamacare was intrusive, just wait until you hear what’s going on in Vermont where the government there is trying to create a single-payer healthcare system, like Canada.

Libertarian Dan Feliciano, who is running for governor, has stopping the single-payer healthcare system as one of his campaign tenants.

“I have a deep understanding in healthcare, the single payer solution does nothing, absolutely nothing to drive the primary cost of healthcare down,” said Feliciano.

If Vermont goes single-payer they will be the most taxed state in the Union and that fact isn’t lost on Feliciano.

Feliciano told Benswann.com’s Joshua Cook, “The first thing we need to do is get all the tax structure under control. Vermont is a great place to live, but we pay some of the highest taxes in the nation,” he said.

“So the key issues that I’m going to talk about are reducing spending and cutting waste,” he added.

He’s looking to this campaign as an opportunity to raise awareness for the Libertarian party: “This is an incredible opportunity for us, especially the Libertarian Party in Vermont. I mean, we have a really great party and we are really looking forward to this campaign.”

Feliciano said that he is a problem solver and he knows how to fix Vermont’s biggest issue: Healthcare. “I have over 20 years of experience and deep expertise as a business improvement consultant and strategy and change consultant. The problems we face as a state I have seen before and I know what it takes to fix them,” said Feliciano.

Feliciano faces incumbent Democrat Peter Shumlin in November, along with several other contenders.

Here is a video from his website:

Vermont becomes twelfth state to introduce legislation to banish NSA


MONTPELIER, Feburary 3, 2014 –Vermont is now the 12th state with legislation to take on NSA spying.

Last Tuesday, Rep. Teo Zagar (D-Windsor-4-1), along with co-sponsor Reps. Susan Davis (P/D-Orange-1), Patricia Komline (R-Bennington-Rutland) and William Stevens (I-Addison-Rutland) introduced the Fourth Amendment Protection Act to prohibit any state support of the NSA.

Based on model legislation drafted by the OffNow coalition, House Bill 732 (H732) would make it state policy to “refuse to provide material support for or assist or in any way participate in the collection of a person’s electronic data or metadata by any federal agency or pursuant to any federal law, rule, regulation, or order unless the data is collected pursuant to a warrant that particularly describes the persons, places, and things to be searched or seized.”

Practically speaking, the Vermont bill addresses two areas where the NSA relies on state assistance to continue their programs.

It would ban the state from using information collected without warrant by any federal agency in criminal investigations or prosecutions.

As Reuters reported in August, 2013, the secretive Special Operations Division (SOD) is “funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.”

Documents obtained by Reuters show that these cases “rarely involve national security issues,” and that local law enforcement is directed by SOD to “conceal how such investigations truly begin.”

Shane Trejo of the OffNow coalition suggested that this was the most important part of the legislation. “While state actions might not be able to physically stop the NSA from collecting our data without a warrant, legislation such as this can significantly reduce the practical effect of what they are trying to do with it, namely, use it in the states for non-terror criminal cases, such as prosecuting the war on cannabis,” he said.

(Video from OffNow.org)

The bill would also ban the state of Vermont from providing any resources, including water or electricity, which aids any federal agency in the collection of electronic data or metadata without a “judicially-issued warrant that particularly describes the persons, places, and things to be searched or seized.”

While the NSA does not have a physical facility in Vermont, the legislation addresses “any federal agency,” which brings many others under the proposed ban on state cooperation.

Reports in the Washington Post and USA Today last fall documented how “the FBI and most other investigative bodies in the federal government” are regularly using a mobile device known as a “stingray” to intercept and collect electronic data without a warrant. Local and state police “have access through sharing agreements.”

In a statement on his website, Zagar, an under-40 part-time citizen legislator, said one of his goals for 2014 was to “work with fellow representatives from across the state and across the aisles to try to improve the state of our state.”

By working with cosponsors identified as democrat, progressive democrat, republican and independent, Shahid Buttar of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee noted that Zagar’s bill was part of a growing effort nationally to cross political boundaries to resist mass surveillance. “We look forward to building transpartisan grassroots campaigns, both online and off-line, in states around the country to secure fundamental First and Fourth amendment rights violated en masse by the NSA,” said Buttar.

Mike Maharrey of the Tenth Amendment Center agreed. “This crosses party lines. Left, right and even the generally apathetic are outraged that their government is spying on them day in and day out,” he said. “Violations of our basic civil liberties impacts us all -Democrats, Republicans and independents alike. For all of our political bickering, Americans rally around certain core principles enshrined in our Constitution. It’s fitting that these four legislators are standing together to defend these values.”

HB732 has been referred to the Vermont House Judiciary Committee where it will need to be passed by a majority vote before being considered by the full state house.

Follow Michael Lotfi on Facebook and on Twitter: @MichaelLotfi

Vermont Completely Nullifies Federal Hemp Ban

Vermont has become the most recent state to take a stand against the federal government and nullify the federal ban on hemp cultivation. Governor Shumlin signed the new bill into law in June.

Vermont Nullifies Federal Hemp Ban
Vermont Nullifies Federal Hemp Ban

Hemp is an agricultural product which may be grown as a crop, produced, possessed, and commercially traded in Vermont pursuant to the provisions of this chapter. The cultivation of hemp shall be subject to and comply with the requirements of the accepted agricultural practices adopted under section 4810 of this title. –Senate Bill 157

According to VoteHemp, a hemp advocate website, Vermont is actually the 9th state to lift the ban on hemp, and 20 states have introduced industrial hemp legislation for the 2013 legislative season. However, what makes Vermont unique is that the new law does not hold a stipulation or amendment requiring the federal government to first lift the ban on hemp cultivation. Much like Colorado, Vermont will proceed regardless of the federal law banning hemp cultivation.

Mike Maharrey, national communications director for the Tenth Amendment Center, tells us:

I like hemp. The Vermont bill is more aggressive than the other bills we’ve seen pass. I’ve been heavily involved in Kentucky with the passing of their hemp bill, but they are waiting for the feds to actually lift the ban. This means that farmers still will not be able to cultivate. Vermont’s bill allows farmers to go straight ahead regardless of the federal law. This is a straight nullification bill. It gives them the green light as soon as they receive the licence from the state. I think this development is extremely important for the states because you will see markets develop and flourish. If more states begin to follow this path then the federal government may be forced to lift the ban. The US is the only industrialized nation that doesn’t allow cultivation of hemp. We have to import all of it. In fact, the US imports 1/2 of all Canada’s hemp. We have thousands of manufacturing companies and stores importing raw hemp and hemp products.

Maharrey says that many opponents argue the market for hemp doesn’t exist in America. “How can you say there isn’t a market when you have never allowed one to exist,” he counters. Maharrey adds, “If we are importing 1/2 of another country’s entire production- there is obviously a market. If not let’s lift the ban, and if the market isn’t there then it will simply vanish.”

According Ray Hanson with the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center:

The combined retail value of hemp food and body care products sold in the United States in 2010 was $40.5 million, up more than 10 percent from 2009, according to the market research firm SPINS. (The same firm estimated that 2009 sales of hemp products reached $36.6 million.) The Hemp Industries Association (HIA) estimated that the retail value of North American hemp food, vitamin and body care products was in the range of $121 to $142 million in 2010. When clothing, auto parts, building materials and other non-food or body care products are included, the HIA estimates that the total retail value of U.S. hemp products is about $419 million.

Man Arrested & Detained For LEGALLY Carrying A Firearm

Police in Rutland, Vermont arrested 26-year-old Joshua Severance for walking around town with a registered handgun clipped to his belt.

What Severance was doing was perfectly legal. But apparently, Rutland police forgot the law.

Severance, a veteran of the National Guard, was walking to his father’s house when police approached him. He said he feels his personal rights were violated and that he is disturbed by the incident.

As he should be.

Rutland Police

He said, “There was a cruiser sitting there parked, and it saw me. I had my firearm on my side, had my shirt off because I was hot, minding my own business just walking along, cops saw me. I can see pulling somebody over and asking them to look at the firearm or check the serial number to see if it comes back stolen but putting somebody in handcuffs and throwing them in a cruiser and treating them like a criminal from square one– I don’t agree with.”

After discovering that Severance’s possession of the gun was in fact legal, police continued to justify their actions. They played down the arrest by explaining their response was due to recent shootings in the neighborhood (unrelated to this incident).

Police Sgt. John Sly of Rutland said, “In this particular neighborhood it is not commonplace to have people walking down the street with firearms, either rifles, shotguns or handguns. It was suspicious; it was out of the ordinary.”

So what?

Severance did nothing to break the law. Just because something is uncommon doesn’t mean it is illegal.

Although Sly claimed it is “uncommon” to see someone walking with firearms, he also said these types of stops are “not out of the ordinary and are routinely conducted.”

The reasoning is laughable.

This incident in Vermont is just another example of an absurd police power-grab.

Do you think such police stops trample on the spirit of the Second Amendment? Or is it acceptable to stop someone carrying a gun out in the open?

Let us know what you think in the comments section below.