Pot Fears Unfounded

October 17, 2007

Brian Joyce, WCAX TV (Burlington, VT)

A little more than three years ago Vermont became the thirteenth state to enact a medical marijuana law despite strong opposition from law enforcement. The police predicted the law that permits physicians to prescribe pot as a pain-killer was just a pretext to legalize marijuana for everyone. Today a top cop acknowledged those predictions have been wrong.

"At this point, four years into this, we're comfortable with what's happening and we believe that the people who are getting it are getting it under the true color of what the law is," said Col. James Baker of the Vermont State Police.

These days State Police Commander Jim Baker is comfortable with Vermont's medical marijuana law -- but it wasn't always that way.

Continued Baker: "The law enforcement community in general had serious reservations about medical marijuana cause we've seen in other states where that was nothing but a front for legalization of marijuana." 

States like California where 60 Minutes last month documented how easy it is to get a doctor's prescription for marijuana.

Said Morley Safer of CBS' 60 Minutes: "Many businesses calling themselves dispensaries or cannabis clubs advertise in alternative papers as do doctors around the state who give you a quick once over and for a price a permit to buy."

But in Vermont, that is not the case.

"I haven't seen what I believe to be any abuses thus far," said Sheri Englert of the Vermont Marijuana Registry.

Sheri Englert oversees Vermont's Medical Marijuana Registry. She and other officials determine who will get a permit for marijuana precriptions for pain relief. Vermont;s conditions are far more strict than California. For example, marijuana must be a last resort certified to be more effective than other pain killers by a doctor -- and not just any doctor.

Continued Englert: "A patient has to have a bona fide relationship with a doctor for at least six months."

As of today, 53 patients are registered -- a number that increased more than 40% since lawmakers eased eligibility requirements three months ago.

"The conditions, the treatments of the conditions, the disease that the patients have are, it's heart-wrenching. It really is," concluded Englert.

Getting a permit to use marijuana does not guarantee the patients will actually get the marijuana they are permitted to use. While it means they can not be prosecuted for possessing marijuana under state law, possessing pot is still a federal crime...but the feds admit they don't generally prosecute small users.

Brian Joyce - WCAX News

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