Medical marijuana expansion bill passed

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(Host) This afternoon, the Vermont Senate approved legislation that expands the state’s medical marijuana law.

The bill allows individuals to grow more plants and it permits doctors to prescribe marijuana for virtually any chronic condition that results in debilitating pain for the patient.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Vermont passed its first medicinal marijuana law in 2004 – since that time several dozen people have registered with the Department of Public Safety to legally use marijuana for chronic pain.

The original law was limited to several specific diseases and it restricted how many plants a person could possess.

The new bill gives doctors much more flexibility in prescribing marijuana and it allows people to have more plants.

Rutland senator Kevin Mullin says the legislation is designed to help individuals who have a painful condition that hasn’t responded to conventional treatment:

(Mullin) “The testimony was such that there are a number of people in Vermont who are suffering from very painful and debilitating diseases that have tried other medications that have not seemed to offer the type of relief and that this is just one more tool in the tool chest to try to help people in these chronic situations.”

(Kinzel) Vermont is one of 11 states that have a medicinal marijuana law in place. Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Sears says that even with these changes, the Vermont law is still one of the most strict in the country.

(Sears) “It is well regulated. It’s actually regulated by our Department of Public Safety. So I think that a lot of the fears and the confusion that comes about this bill, if you really look at what we’re doing here, this is really a baby step forward in ameliorating this disease.”

(Kinzel) Rather than specify which debilitating diseases are covered under this law, Windsor senator John Campbell says the new bill gives individual doctors the discretion to determine when it should be used:

(Campbell) “We didn’t want to have to go through and start listing a to z on everything because we’d probably forget some things so doctors, they’re the ones that set the eligibility standards so it’s up to the physician.”

(Kinzel) The measure is expected to come up for final approval in the Senate on Thursday – it will then be considered in the House.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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