House Speaker Shap Smith becomes target of internet offensive from backers of marijuana bill

Speaker of the House Shap SmithHouse Speaker Shap Smith is accustomed to facing blowback for the marijuana decriminalization bill stalled indefinitely at his behest in the Legislature. But he was taken aback Tuesday when critics of his anti-decriminalization stance posted detailed personal information about his wife and children online.

In a form of online activism known as “doxing,” anonymous internet users have compiled a comprehensive list of information about Smith and his family, including his home phone number, home address, a link to a Google map image of his house, and the address of his wife’s physician practice in Stowe. The web page – links to which have been posted on Smith’s Facebook page – also includes details including his children’s names and the physician licensing number of his wife.

The anonymous people behind the information dump say on the doxing site that “Vermont Speaker of the house Shap Smith is blocking the decriminalization of Marijuana in the State ofVermont. So we decided to dox him…”

Smith said he encourages constituents to use his Facebook page, or other venues, to register their opposition to his views. No matter how pointed or severe the criticism, he said, he’s eager to hear voters weigh in. And he said that as a public figure, he doesn’t take offense to the posting of personal information about him online.

“I’m a public official – people can post anything they want about me,” he said Wednesday. “It’s the information about my wife and kids I think goes beyond the limits of reasonable discourse.”

Smith, a five-term Morrisville Democrat, said he’s consulted with attorneys for the Legislature but that “it’s not clear to me there’s any legal violation.”

Smith said he’s never had any comments removed from his Facebook page and is torn about what to do now. The links to the doxing site remained on Smith’s page as of late Wednesday evening.

An official at the Marijuana Policy Project, a national organization lobbying for decriminalization inVermont, condemned the doxing tactics.

“We at the Marijuana Policy Project have no idea who is responsible for publishing personal information about House Speaker Shap Smith’s family, and we wish to make it clear that we do not support the use of these tactics,” Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies for the MPP, said in a written statement.

Gov. Peter Shumlin is a vocal proponent of marijuana decriminalization, and the Senate has signaled its approval of making possession of small amounts of cannabis a fine-only offense.

Though many political observers say the measure would likely win broad support on the House floor, Smith has used his sway to prevent the legislation from moving.