Senate to see Rx marijuana bill

February 20, 2007

Neal Goswami, Bennington Banner (VT)

 BENNINGTON — A new medical marijuana bill is close to reaching the Senate floor after it unanimously passed in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee Tuesday.

Headed to floor

Health and Welfare Committee Chairman Sen. Doug Racine, D-Chittenden, said the bill, S.07, introduced by Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, is bound for the Senate Finance Committee because changes to a fee are included in the bill. That is likely to be a formality, however, and the legislation should reach the Senate floor shortly, according Racine.

The purpose of the bill is to raise the amount of marijuana a registered patient can possess to six mature plants, 18 immature plants and four ounces of usable marijuana. Current law only allows for one mature plant, two immature plants and two ounces of usable marijuana. In addition, the registration fee for patients would be reduced from $100 to $50.

Vermont became the 10th state in 2004 to pass medical marijuana legislation and is now one of 11 states that allow medical marijuana use. There are currently has 33 registered patients.

Sears' bill also expands the number of conditions that would qualify for medical


marijuana. In addition to ailments such as cancer, AIDS and multiple sclerosis, the bill would allow for patients with glaucoma, cachexia, wasting syndrome and severe pain, nausea or seizures.

The committee considered two amendments to the bill, approving one Tuesday that will restrict who is eligible to prescribe medical marijuana for a patient, said Racine. In the committee's view, the definition of a physician within the bill needed to be narrowed to protect against abuse, he said.

"We thought the definition was too loose in the bill that was received," said Racine.

According to Racine, the amendment clarifies which out-of-state physicians will be allowed to write a prescription for marijuana. The original version of the bill says that any person that is licensed ... "and is licensed with authority to prescribe drugs" is considered an eligible physician.

The amendment will limit eligible physicians to those that "practice medicine and prescribe drugs under comparable provisions in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and New York," said Racine.

The committee wanted to accommodate Vermont residents who have doctors or specialists in bordering states, but restrict patients from seeking far-off doctors to write them a prescription, said Racine.

"The point was that folks along the border will often visit doctors or hospitals out-of-state," said Racine "The way it was written it could be someone from California. We didn't want it to be a situation where questionable people from California were calling in prescriptions."

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