VT lawmakers vote to uncap medical marijuana dispensaries, will study full legalization

By Eric Boehm | Watchdog.org

Marijuana legalization activists praised the Vermont Legislature this week for approving a bill to improve access to medical marijuana in the state and study the possibility of full legalization.

The bill, S.B. 247, would uncap the current limits on how many individuals can receive medical marijuana from the state’s four dispensaries. Under current law, medical marijuana dispensaries are limited to no more than 1,000 registered clients at any time.

MORE ACCESS: State lawmakers in Montpelier voted to remove caps on Vermont’s medical marijuana dispensary system.

But the newly approved legislation would allow the state’s four dispensaries — in Brandon, Brattleboro, Burlington and Montpelier — to serve anyone with a prescription for pot.

The bill will also allow dispensaries to deliver their products to individuals at home, and increases the legal limits for how much marijuana the dispensaries are allowed to keep in their inventories.

“The House and Senate should be commended for taking action to ensure seriously ill Vermonters have legal access to medical marijuana,” said Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, which advocates for marijuana legalization.

The state Senate and House voted Wednesday to pass the bill, which is now awaiting Gov. Peter Shumlin’s signature. He hasn’t indicated if he will sign it and his staff didn’t return calls seeking comment on the bill.

State Sen. Jeannette White, D-Windham, who sponsored the legislation, told Vermont Public Radio the caps were forcing some people with medical problems to buy marijuana illegally.

The bill includes a request for the Shumlin administration to conduct a study on the possibility of full legalization of marijuana in the Green Mountain State. The study would examine the economic, safety and public health consequences if marijuana was legalized for adults and regulated in a similar fashion to alcohol.

“There is strong public support in Vermont and around the nation for ending the failed policy of marijuana prohibition,” Simon said.

Shumlin has indicated an interest in studying the issue. Earlier this year, he said it “makes sense” for Vermont to see what would happen if it followed states like Washington and Colorado towards legalizing the drug.

A bill to legalize marijuana in the state was introduced earlier this year by state Sen. David Zuckerman, P-Chittenden, but it hasn’t received a vote.

That bill would impose a $50 per ounce tax on marijuana. For comparison, an ounce of weed would cost about $68 in taxes under Colorado’s tax structure, which is based on price rather than weight.

Boehm can be reached at EBoehm@Watchdog.org and follow @WatchdogOrg and @EricBoehm87 on Twitter for more.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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