5/9/2011 – Medical cannabis dispensaries are just a signature away from becoming a reality in Vermont. The House voted last week with a strong margin and Governor Peter Shumlin (D) has been a vocal supporter of the issue, so he will likely sign it into law.
Although some Republican opponents brought up the recent federal pressure on such facilities, it was not seen as paramount to the needs of local patients. Seriously ill or terminal residents in Vermont must grow their own cannabis under the current state law. This hard-fought effort to bring four dispensaries into operation is seen as filling a specific need that will directly benefit individuals who do not have the physical ability to cultivate medical-quality cannabis at home.
US Attorneys in Arizona, Washington, Rhode Island, Colorado and even Vermont have recently sent paper threats against state medical marijuana programs, especially store-front facilities.
The fed actions caused WA Gov. Chris Gregoire and RI Gov. Lincoln Chaffe to suspend their Legislatures’ plans for medical marijuana dispensaries. But not everyone is backing down in the most refined state vs federal conflict of the 21st century. Gregoire also leads the National Governors Association and she has called for the 15 medical cannabis governors to unite in asking Congress to remove marijuana from Schedule I in the Controlled Substances Act
Amidst the escaltion in national politics for the issue, Vermont is not alone in moving forward with plans to regulate dispensaries. A medical marijuana bill in Delaware has passed both houses and awaits a confirmation vote in the Senate. [UPDATE – Gov Jack Markell signed the bill into law 5/13]
New Jersey is set to finalize regulations later in May that would bring the six approved Alternative Treatment Centers into operation.
Maryland passed a law to offer a positive medical necessity defense in court if seriously ill residents are arrested.
Connecticut is also close to fully passing a bill to legalize marijuana for seriously ill adults. Gov Daniel Malloy’s staff are taking on a position fitting for the current climate:
The bill, Senate Bill 17, would expand Vermont’s medical marijuana law and improve patient access by allowing the sale of marijuana at dispensaries. The four dispensaries would be licensed and regulated by the state Department of Public Safety.
The vote to approve dispensaries came in spite of a letter from the state’s US attorney warning that marijuana remains illegal under federal law. That letter was part of a stepped-up campaign by US attorneys in various states to intimidate and rein-in large-scale medical marijuana cultivation and sales.
Supporters argued that the state’s existing medical marijuana law is lacking because it forces sick people to grow their own medicine. Requiring sick people to do so “is expensive and difficult and unlike anything else we require anybody else to go through to relieve their pain,” said Rep. Eldred French (D-Shrewsbury) in remarks reported by the Vermont Digger.
“We did not provide them with a way to obtain the marijuana that they need to ease their suffering,” French said. “And if we can’t provide them with a way to do that without insulting their dignity and them involve themselves in what is a criminal activity in the state of Vermont, by going out and trying to buy it elsewhere, if we can’t provide that, I think we’ve failed our duty.” READ FULL ARTICLE
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Chris Goldstein is a respected marijuana reform advocate. As a writer and radio broadcaster he has been covering cannabis news for over a decade. He volunteers with local groups to change prohibition laws including PhillyNORML and The Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey.