Pot Dispensary Bill Faces Action
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Pot Dispensary Bill Faces Action
Posted by CN Staff on March 09, 2010 at 04:58:18 PT
By Peter Hirschfeld, Vermont Press Bureau
Source: Times Argus
Montpelier, VT --  A legislative effort to provide eligible patients with safe and legal access to medical marijuana could inch forward this week when a Senate committee decides whether to create state-sanctioned dispensaries for the drug.The Senate Committee on Government Operations is scheduled to vote Thursday on a bill that would establish up to five so-called "compassion centers" at which patients could obtain medical marijuana.
Sen. Jeanette White, a Windham County Democrat, chairs the government operations committee and is the lead sponsor of the bill. She said Monday that she hopes the legislation will see a vote on the full Senate floor before the crossover deadline Friday to send bills to the House.Nearly 200 Vermont residents are enrolled on the state's medical-marijuana registry. But though the state legalized medical marijuana in 2004, White said, patients struggle to obtain a drug credited with relieving the symptoms of certain chronic illnesses."We've approved medical marijuana usage in Vermont but the people that are certified and registered with the state to legitimately use it can't get it anywhere except by criminal activity," White said.Without a legal outlet for the drug, White said, would-be users are forced to find the drug through "unsavory" channels."It's hard for an 80-year-old woman to go around and try to find someplace she can get it," White said.And while the 2004 medical marijuana law allows eligible patients to grow their own, White said that too can be difficult for people already beset by serious medical conditions."Oftentimes people don't have the strength or the ability to grow," She said. "We don't all have green thumbs."As the Thursday vote approaches, the bill remains a work in progress. White said her legislation will include numerous safeguards and restrictions to ensure that sanctioned dispensaries are subject to strict regulatory oversight.As for supplying the drug, she said, the bill would allow sanctioned growers to cultivate an amount sufficient for the dispensaries' clientele.The bill has drawn opposition from the Department of Public Safety, where officials say they worry that dispensaries would fuel increased illegal drug use. They also oppose the bill on the grounds that it would violate federal laws. Though the Obama administration has tamped down on federal raids of medical-marijuana dispensaries, the drug is still classified by the federal government as a Schedule 1 narcotic.White said she's uncertain whether the bill has enough support to make it over to the House."I don't know if it will pass the Senate floor," White said. "I don't know if it will even pass out of my committee."Even if the bill does make it through the government operations committee, it may not see a full Senate vote before the crossover deadline. Senate Majority Leader John Campbell, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he believes the legislation needs serious vetting by the judiciary committee before it's ready for a vote by the full chamber."There are so many legal ramifications that I don't believe the government operations committee has an opportunity to really delve into because it's not usually an area of their jurisdiction," Campbell said Monday. "You have to take so many things into consideration, and I don't want any unforeseen consequences to the people dispensing it, nor do we want to place any extra burden on law enforcement by sending out a bill that will just make their jobs 10 times harder."Source: Times Argus (Barre, VT)Author: Peter Hirschfeld, Vermont Press BureauPublished: March 9, 2010Copyright: 2009 Times ArgusContact: letters timesargus.comWebsite: URL: Medical Marijuana Archives
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