Pot bill is signed into law
By Thatcher Moats
VERMONT PRESS BUREAU | June 03,2011
MONTPELIER — Gov. Peter Shumlin on Thursday signed into law a bill that allows up to four medical marijuana dispensaries to set up shop in Vermont.
The bill passed the Legislature this year amid opposition from some leaders in the state’s law enforcement community, and Vermont is now the eighth state in the country to give registered medical marijuana users a place to get the drug.
Vermont has allowed medical marijuana since 2004 and there are more than 300 people on the state’s registry. The law allows patients or caregivers to grow a limited amount of marijuana, but advocates for the dispensary bill argue it can be difficult to grow marijuana and it’s dangerous to buy it on the black market.
Sen. Jeanette White, who chairs the Senate Committee on Government Operations that took extensive testimony on the bill, said the state left medical marijuana users in a tough spot by granting the right to use the drug, but not a reliable way to get it.
“We left people in a terrible position where we allow medication for legitimate symptom relief and no way to get it legally, and now we’re providing safe access to a safe product,” White said.
Medical marijuana dispensaries won’t crop up immediately.
The Vermont Department of Public Safety, which will regulate dispensaries, is in the process of developing rules to carry out the new law, White said.
White said it could take six to seven months to develop the rules.
The dispensaries law, however, requires the Department of Public Safety to issue four licenses within a year — provided people apply and meet the strict requirements.
That provision was added, White said, because of the “possibility someone could say ‘We’re not going to do this,’ and drag the rules out for the next three years.’”
But when it comes to getting dispensaries up and running, White said, the Department of Public Safety is “really taking this seriously.”
White said she has been communicating with two people interested in setting up dispensaries.
A spokeswoman for Shumlin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.