Vermont Governor Pete Shumlin has signed a bill into law that will authorize four medical marijuana dispensaries to operate licensed businesses in the state to dispense marijuana and marijuana-related supplies to registered medical marijuana patients.
Vermont bill, S.17 [pdf], authorizes dispensaries to acquire, possess, cultivate, manufacture, deliver, transfer, transport, sell, and dispense cannabis, supplies and educational materials to a patient or caregiver that has designated it as their dispensary.
“This is a great day for a lot of patients throughout the state that, until now, have been unsure how to go about obtaining medicine their doctor has recommended,” said Dan Riffle, a legislative analyst with the Marijuana Policy Project. (MPP) “Governor Shumlin is to be commended for his leadership and compassion, and congratulations to Sen. Jeanette White and the other legislative leaders who shepherded this bill through the legislature.”
Under S.17 dispensaries may acquire marijuana seeds or parts of the marijuana plant capable of regeneration from registered patients or their caregivers or from the other registered Vermont dispensary. The may cultivate and possess up to 55 immature marijuana plants, 35 mature marijuana plants, and 80 ounces of usable marijuana at any one time.
A dispensary shall be operated on a nonprofit basis for the mutual benefit of its patients and have a sliding scale fee system that takes into account a registered patient’s ability to pay. A dispensary may not be located within 1,000 feet of the property line of a preexisting public or private school and shall implement appropriate security measures, including having an operational security alarm system, to deter and prevent the unauthorized entrance into areas containing marijuana and the theft of marijuana. All cultivation of marijuana shall take place in an enclosed, locked facility. Dispensaries are subject to reasonable inspection by the department public safety.
According to the Marijuana Policy Project, with the signing of the bill into law, "Vermont becomes the 8th state where patients can legally obtain marijuana. They join Colorado, Maine, New Mexico, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Arizona, and Delaware on the list of states with laws that explicitly allow dispensaries. Washington, D.C. is also in the process of implementing a program that will allow five such facilities in the nation’s capital."
"Vermont lawmakers initially approved the physician-supervised use of marijuana in 2004, but failed to provide a state-regulated supply source," reports the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. (NORML)
The Vermont marijuana laws allow for the use of medical cannabis for patients suffering from debilitating conditions that include cancer, multiple sclerosis, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or the treatment of these conditions, if the disease or the treatment results in severe, persistent, and intractable symptoms; or a disease, medical condition, or its treatment that is chronic, debilitating, and produces severe, persistent, and one or more of the following intractable symptoms: cachexia or wasting syndrome, severe pain, severe nausea, or seizures.
"Vermont law allows patients or their caregivers to grow their own marijuana, but several patients told legislators that they were unable to do so due to the high cost of equipment or because their medical condition made the task too physically demanding," according to Riffle and MPP. "The patients were joined by the state’s top law enforcement official, Department of Public Safety Director Keith Flynn, who also testified in support of the measure."
Dan Riffle, said "it could be up to two years before the first medical marijuana dispensary opens its doors. The Department of Public safety will have to develop and implement rules for the dispensaries before they begin reviewing applications from perspective dispensaries, said the MPP analyst.
The Marijuana Policy Project, which has been instrumental in 'changing laws' throughout the country, says, "Despite strong public support for ending marijuana prohibition, MPP faces an uphill battle" in the United States as they work to write, rewrite and change marijuana laws.
The passage and signing of the the Vermont laws is a big win for MPP and for patient advocates, said MPP. "We played an instrumental role in passing this legislation, including by funding a two-year lobbying effort and helping elect a governor who supports sensible marijuana policies." Still, we can’t do it alone. Patient advocates also played a key role, as did MPP members who contacted their legislators, spread the word, and donated to our efforts," said Rob Kampia, Executive Director, Marijuana Policy Project.
Shumlin's signing of S. 17 was welcome news to Ian Rhein, according to MPP. "Twenty years ago he was shot while intervening in a domestic altercation and the bullet has remained lodged in his back since, causing excruciating pain."
“I’ve always been grateful that my registry card means I’m not a criminal, but until today that card has done nothing to give me relief from constant, everyday pain which is what this program is supposed to be about,” said Rhein. “Finally, with this law, I’ll be able to use the card to obtain the medicine I need.”