Pubdate: Thu, 06 May 2004
Source: Bennington Banner (VT)
Copyright: 2004 by MediaNews Group, Inc. and NENI Newspapers
Author: Tim McCahill, Associated Press Writer
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


MONTPELIER (AP) -- A House committee has passed a revised version of a
medical marijuana bill that would exempt patients with certain
illnesses from arrest and prosecution for possession of limited
amounts of the drug.

Wednesday's vote by the Health and Welfare Committee ends the latest
chapter in what has been a lengthy and sometimes hotly debated voyage
for the measure, an earlier version of which was approved by the
Senate last year.

Committee Chairman Rep. Thomas Koch, R-Barre, said last month that he
was reluctant to pass that version of the legislation.

This week he offered an amended bill that limits what kinds of
illnesses patients must have to qualify to use marijuana, requires
patients to apply and register for the drug with the Department of
Public Safety and reduces the number of plants patients can cultivate
in their homes from seven to three.

Burlington Progressive Rep. David Zuckerman said the changes reduced
the number of people who could use marijuana for medical purposes. He
said the original legislation would have allowed a broader range of
people to use the drug, including people suffering from pain that
couldn't be relieved with prescription medicine like OxyContin.

He also questioned why the amended bill required patients to register
with the Department of Public Safety rather than the Agency of Human
Services as stipulated in the earlier version.

Under the bill passed by the House committee patients with terminal
cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis and certain other ailments would be
eligible to grow limited amounts of marijuana inside a "secure indoor
facility." The Department of Public Safety would keep a database of
those registered in the program.

Public Safety Commissioner Kerry Sleeper praised the revised

"I have indicated that the committee did an excellent job in narrowing
the use of marijuana to those individuals most critically in need,"
said Sleeper, who listened to the panel debate the measure. "This is
more restrictive than S.76," the Senate version of the bill.

The legislation now moves to the House Ways and Means Committee.
Zuckerman said he was confident the measure would get to the full
House for a vote by the end of the session. 
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