Bill Calls For Five Marijuana Dispensaries In Vermont


Graphic: Darwinek

​A state 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 169 Vermonters who have registered with the state as cannabis patients, reports Nancy Remsen of the Burlington Free Press.

Supporters on the Senate Government Operations Committee argued that patients with permission to use marijuana shouldn’t be forced to deal with criminals as they try to obtain cannabis to help cope with debilitating medical conditions.
Opponents claimed Vermont 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 more Senate committee before it comes before the full Senate for a vote, Remsen reports.
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,” Shumlin 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.”

Photo: Straight Talk On Marriage
State Sen. Peter Shumlin: “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?”

​”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?” Shumlin asked.
The bill would allow up to five compassion centers, each authorized to grow and sell marijuana. The marijuana could be grown at a different location than the dispensary.
A dispensary could cultivate and possess up to 98 immature plants, 28 mature plants and 28 ounces of usable marijuana. Centers would sell a maximum of two ounces to any individual in a 10-day period.
The Vermont Department of health would regulate the dispensaries, while the Department of Public Safety would establish rules on who could qualify to volunteer, work or serve on the boards of the nonprofit compassion centers.
Some state officials appear to be mired in outdated, 20th Century perceptions about medical marijuana.
“At this point in time, marijuana isn’t considered a medicine,” said Barbara Cimaglio, betraying her ignorance of hundreds of scientific studies. “So any type of oversight related to this, we don’t see as a health issue.”
Cimaglio bemoaned the additional responsibilities and additional staff that would be required by the bill, at a time when the Health Department has cut staff as a result of Vermont’s budget woes.
“Who would do this?” Cimaglio asked. “To add work to the existing staff would be problematic at this time.”
Public Safety Commissioner Tom Tremblay also appeared reluctant to do any extra work, calling the bill “a bad idea.”
“We don’t need to create a program that will drain our resources for a very small part of the population, especially at this time, a recession,” said Tremblay, who seems entirely unaware that the dispensaries would generate — not cost — money.
“Patients are looking for legal access,” said Nancy Lynch of the Vermont Alliance for Intelligent Drug Laws. She said the proposed bill included protections such as criminal checks for those connected to any dispensary and security system requirements.
Enactment of the bill this year is seen as unlikely, even if the full Senate goes along.
“It is not high on our priority list,” said House Speaker Shap Smith (D-Morristown).