Pubdate: Sat, 11 May 2002
Source: Rutland Herald (VT)
Copyright: 2002 Rutland Herald
Author: Joseph W. McSherry
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


Vermont needs a medical cannabis (marijuana) law to correct some unintended 
consequences of the current law. Some people who are very ill do use 
cannabis as medicine, but the potency is unknowable, black market forces 
inflate the price, availability is uncertain and they risk arrest by local 

As a neurologist, I have treated patients who use cannabis illegally and 
find that it treats symptoms of their epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and 
severe musculoskeletal spasms. What these patients need is access to a 
product of consistent potency, at the lowest cost possible, that can be 
used safely and discretely, as medicine is usually employed.

A consistent potency product cannot be obtained on the black market, where 
what is available is what slips through the borders in a given week. 
Availability is presumably variable and the price is inflated by the black 
market. The proposed amendment to H750 will not improve availability or 

A product grown in controlled conditions from consistent seed stock can be 
of a reliable potency if handled properly. Ideally, this would be grown in 
a local non-profit place and distributed through pharmacies at as low cost 
as possible. But John Walters and Asa Hutchinson have demonstrated that the 
Federal government will not tolerate public medical cannabis production.

This leaves the patient growing a personal amount of medical cannabis. As 
virtually all arrests for personal amounts of cannabis are by state or 
local law enforcement, the legislature can make a difference to patients by 
protecting them from local arrest, seizure and prosecution.

Some patients, especially those who are very ill or near death, cannot care 
for themselves, let alone procure an ounce of cannabis for medicine.

Caregivers for such patients are not given an affirmative defense under the 
amendment to H750. Providing a patient with less than a half an ounce of 
cannabis can cost a caregiver two years in prison and $10,000 in fines.

Patients too sick to care for themselves, for whom there is least objection 
to palliative measures, are given no consideration by the amendment to H750.

I hope Senator Sears gives further consideration to H645, which provides 
for the legal use by the very ill, allows for personal production of a 
reliable product by the patient, protects the patient's caregiver and also 
protects the physician who might discuss the rational use of cannabis. The 
amendment to H750 sustains the unfortunate aspects of the current law and 
does not treat the sick fairly.

Joseph W. McSherry, Richmond
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