House nears passage of expanded medical marijuana bill

May 01, 2007

, Vermont Guardian

By a voice vote, the House of Representatives passed a bill today that would improve Vermont's medical marijuana law.

Tuesdays’ vote, originally planned for today, clears the bill for a final House vote, which could come today. If it passes, the bill will go to a conference committee so it can be consolidated with the Senate's version, which the Senate passed at the end of February.

If passed into law, the bill would add serious conditions that cause nausea, wasting, chronic pain, or seizures to the list of conditions covered by Vermont's medical marijuana law. The current law, passed in 2004, only protects patients suffering from HIV/AIDS, cancer, and multiple sclerosis from the threat of arrest and imprisonment. The new law would also increase the number of plants registered patients are allowed to grow.

"Our House of Representatives made a compassionate decision by passing this bill today," said Steve Perry of Randolph Center, a former heating and plumbing contractor now disabled by a degenerative joint disease not covered under Vermont's current law. "I am grateful that they considered suffering patients like me who could benefit from this medicine, but are forbidden from obtaining it regardless of whether our doctors recommend it. I sincerely hope Gov. Douglas does the same when this legislation arrives at his desk."

Of the 12 state medical marijuana laws, Vermont's law is the most restrictive in terms of qualifying medical conditions.

"This bill gets Vermont's law much closer to reflecting what scientific research tells us about medical cannabis's potential applications," said Joseph McSherry, a Burlington neurologist. "If a patient and doctor believe medical cannabis to be an appropriate treatment, and that opinion is supported by the available research, then the law should permit the treatment. This is a significant improvement that the legislature has enacted."



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