The Politics of Pot

April 13, 2004

Kristin Carlson , WCAX TV - Burlington, VT

A bill that would legalize marijuana for medical use has new life at the Vermont statehouse.

The bill has already passed the Senate and today a House committee started taking testimony on it.

Hilton Wick came to the statehouse to speak for his wife, who died from breast cancer. Barbara Wick used pot to relieve her pain at the end of life.

'She smoked it maybe the last three or four months of her life on occasion, whenever she felt she had too much pain,' explained Wick.

Mary Cheney spoke to lawmakers about her late husband who also used medical marijuana.

Cheney: 'I know it wasn't a cure there was nothing that was going to cure him, he knew that, he was not going to become addicted, it was just going to make his life a lot easier.'

But police have concerns about the bill and how it is written saying it could lead to more marijuana on the street.

And some doctors worry if the bill passes it would open them up to legal punishment. They also question pots effectiveness.

Dr. Michael Borrello said, 'For me saying it is a good medication and we should prescribe it for the population at large, I would say no.'

The bill passed the Senate and was stalled in a House committee until this week. The vice-chair went against the chairman of the eleven member committee and took a vote to force testimony to be taken. A similar move could be made to bring the bill to the House floor for a full vote, where it could have enough support to pass.

Republican Representative Tom Koch from Barre chairs the House Health and Welfare committee and is against medical marijuana. 'I hope there is no effort to ram this bill through unamended on a six-five vote.'

Progressive Representative David Zuckerman from Burlington supports medical marijuana. There is one more day of testimony scheduled on medical marijuana after that it is unclear what will happen to the bill this session.

'People are looking at this as an individual issue without all the partisan stuff that often happens with other issues and I am pleased with that and I do think it has a chance of passing the floor if we can get it there,' says Zuckerman.

Governor Douglas is opposed to medical marijuana and is urging lawmakers to take a different course and not bring this bill to his desk.

Governor Douglas, 'The legislation that is pending before the general assembly is going the wrong way to go and I oppose it.'

Although Governor Douglas is against medical marijuana, he once voted to decriminalize up to an ounce of pot when he was a House member in 1978.

Douglas says he did so because of the impacts people arrested for drugs were having on the corrections system.

The governor now says decriminalizing medical marijuana would send the wrong message to young people.

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