Vermont: Bill Seeks To Create Marijuana Dispensaries

March 12, 2010 – A Sen­ate panel voted 3-2 Thurs­day to support a bill that would allow the establish­ment of five medical-mari­juana dispensaries to serve the needs of the 169 Ver­monters who have regis­tered with the state so they can use marijuana to cope with debilitating medical conditions.

Supporters on the Senate Government Operations Committee argued that pa­tients with permission to use marijuana shouldn’t be forced to deal with criminals to get the substance.

Opponents argued the state couldn’t afford the new oversight and enforcement expenses that would come with the establishment of dispensaries — which would be called “compassion cen­ters.”

The bill must be re­viewed by at least one other Senate committee before it comes before the full Senate for a vote. Despite the split committee vote, the bill might receive a push from Senate President Pro Tem­pore Peter Shumlin, D-Windham.

“I’d like to see it pass,” he said. “We get calls in my of­fice from elderly Vermont­ers, sick people, who have followed the law and ask us what a drug dealer looks like so they can get the medicine they need. How can the state have a law that enables Ver­monters who are sick to le­gally use a drug that they need and then ask them to purchase it illegally?”

The bill would allow up to five compassion centers to be established, each au­thorized to grow and dis­pense marijuana. The mari­juana could be grown at a different location from the dispensary. A center could cultivate and possess up to 98 immature plants, 28 ma­ture plants and 28 ounces of useable marijuana. Centers would give out a maximum of two ounces to an individ­ual in a 10-day period.

Under the bill, the De­partment of Health would regulate the dispensaries, while the Department of Public Safety would estab­lish rules as to who could qualify to volunteer, work or serve on the boards of the nonprofit compassion cen­ters.

State officials oppose the bill.

“At this point in time, marijuana isn’t considered a medicine,” said Barbara Ci­maglio, a deputy commis­sioner at the Department of Health. “So any type of over­sight related to this, we don’t see as a health issue.”

(Interview by Bob Kinzel-Host) Despite opposition from law enforcement officials, a bill that makes it easier to buy medical marijuana is moving through the Senate.

The legislation creates a number of state dispensaries where people who are eligible can purchase small amounts of the drug.

(Kinzel) Several years ago, the Legislature gave its approval to a bill that allows an individual with a chronic disease to buy and use marijuana for medical purposes if their doctor sanctions this treatment.

About 200 people are currently registered with the state to legally use medical marijuana but supporters of the law argue that it’s sometimes very difficult for patients to purchase the drug.

This bill establishes as many as five dispensaries around the state where eligible patients can purchase small amounts of marijuana.

Windham senator Jeanette White is the chairwoman of the Senate Government Operations committee.  She thinks the bill is a good idea:

(White) “They’re 73 years old they have a debilitating disease they have no ability to grow it themselves. They don’t have any friends who they think they can ask to grow it for them. Where are they going to go to find medical marijuana? Are they going to walk around the alleys? We’ve had people call and say well what does a drug dealer look like what am I looking for if I go out and buy it?”

(Kinzel) But Franklin senator Randy Brock opposes the bill because he thinks it will lead to an increased use of marijuana in Vermont:

(Brock) “In every other state where centers like this have opened the number of people who are registered and many for questionable purposes has risen exponentially.”

(Kinzel) Public Safety Commissioner Tom Tremblay is urging senators not to pass this bill.  He’s convinced that criminals will find a way to get involved in the operations of these centers and he says his department doesn’t have the resources to proper regulate these new dispensaries:

(Tremblay) “Where they sell perhaps a small amount of what’s considered medical marijuana out the front door but criminal enterprise is flourishing out the back door there’s a significant profit margin in marijuana distribution.”

(Kinzel) Senator White says most of the Commissioner’s concerns have been addressed:

(White) “I understand law enforcement’s objection to it I understand the Department of Health’s objection to it and we’ve done everything we could to make it a tighter bill and to address all of their concerns except the concern that we shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”

(Kinzel) It’s likely that the Senate Judiciary committee will also want to review the bill before the legislation is considered on the Senate floor.

By Bob Kinzel.  Source.

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