Vermont to Become 10th State with Law Allowing Medical Use of Marijuana

May 18, 2004

Darren M. Allen and John Zicconi, Rutland Herald

MONTPELIER - A measure legalizing the use and possession of marijuana by
people suffering from AIDS, cancer or multiple sclerosis crossed its final
legislative hurdle Wednesday, paving the way for it to become law without
the signature of Gov.  James Douglas. Senators, voting 20-7 in favor of the heavily lobbied bill, made Vermont's
Legislature only the second in the country - Hawaii is the other - to
legalize the use of medical marijuana.

The bill was sent to the governor, who confirmed that he would decline to
sign it, meaning the measure automatically becomes law in five days.

Vermont will become the ninth state with such a law on the books.  In seven
of those states voters, not legislators, approved the medical marijuana
legislation.

'I will not oppose this decision of the elected representatives of the
people, nor will I support it by signing it into law,' Douglas said in a
statement.  'I cannot actively support a measure that allows Vermonters to
be subject to prosecution under federal law, increases the availability of a
controlled substance and sends a dangerous message to our children.'

According to administration officials, the White House lobbied Douglas to
veto the bill.

Indeed, President Bush's deputy drug czar came to Vermont last month in a
daylong lobbying blitz, and, in the last several days, a Bush administration
official placed a phone call to Douglas urging his rejection of the bill.

The new law is actually a much narrower package than that passed earlier
this year by the Senate.  And while the governor was poised to veto that
measure, he was said to be cognizant of the political popularity of making
marijuana available to terminally ill people.

'I believe that we owe Vermonters with debilitating medical conditions the
very best that medical science has to offer,' Douglas said.

'Proven science has not demonstrated that marijuana is part of that,' he
said. 'Despite that fact, marijuana offers those with the most painful
chronic diseases a measure of hope in a time of suffering.'

The measure's supporters included the leader of Vermont's Catholics, who
yesterday praised the governor for allowing it to become law.

'I believe this bill is a very encouraging indication that our legislature
and our governor are seriously concerned about improving end-of-life care in
Vermont,' said Bishop Kenneth Angell of the Burlington Diocese.  'I know
this was a hard decision for Gov.  Douglas.'

Under the new law, people will be allowed to grow up to three marijuana
plants in a locked room and possess 2 ounces of 'usable pot.'

Users will be under the supervision of the Department of Public Safety.


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