Expansion of Vermont medical marijuana statute becomes law

May 31, 2007

, Associated Press

MONTPELIER, Vt. --Vermont's medical marijuana law -- which lets people with life-threatening conditions use the illegal drug without fear of prosecution -- now covers people with chronic, debilitating conditions.

On Thursday, a bill making that change became law after Gov. Jim Douglas balked at signing it. Under the state Constitution, any bill approved by the Legislature and sent to the governor becomes law if he doesn't sign it within five days.

Douglas also balked at signing the original version of the law passed in 2004.

"The governor has compassion for people who are suffering from debilitating diseases, but he can't in good conscience sanction a violation of federal law," said spokesman Jason Gibbs.

In addition to broadening the field of people covered, the law increases the number of plants they can grow at home and cuts the annual registration fee from $100 to $50.

Vermont is one of 12 states that protect very sick people from prosecution for using marijuana. But its law remains relatively conservative compared with others, according to Dan Bernath, assistant communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project.

Senate Majority Leader John Campbell, a former police officer, was among those in favor of expanding the law to cover more people, although he says he understood Douglas' reluctance.

"We chose to look at the human side, to take a compassionate view," said Campbell, D-Windsor.

Multiple sclerosis sufferer Mark Tucci, of Manchester, one of 35 people on the state's medical marijuana registry, uses two ounces a month to relieve pain and muscle spasms.

He welcomed the law change, but said it still won't be enough to let him legally grow the amount he needs.

"It still forces me out on the black market, but it certainly helps."

 



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