Pubdate: Fri, 26 Aug 2005
Source: Boston Herald (MA)
Copyright: 2005 The Boston Herald, Inc
Author: Associated  Press
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Chronic Pain)


BURLINGTON, Vt. - A man who qualified for the state's medical marijuana 
registry cannot use marijuana to ease the pain of multiple sclerosis 
because he lives in a nursing home, pointing to a potential flaw in the 
state's 2004 law. Shayne  Higgins, is one of about 15 people on the state's 
medical marijuana registry,  which theoretically allows him to legally 
possess and consume marijuana. But in  March, when the staff at Starr Farm 
Nursing Center in Burlington found a marijuana cigarette in Higgins' room, 
they called police, who seized the cigarette. Burlington  Police Deputy 
Chief Stephen Wark said the officer confiscated the cigarette  because 
Starr Farm doesn't allow smoking on the premises. Higgins wasn't 
charged  after he showed the officer his medical marijuana registry card, 
he said.

"If this  were his house, we wouldn't have taken it," Wark said. Starr 
Farm  Nursing Center administrators said in a statement Wednesday that they 
cannot  allow marijuana on the premises because the federal government 
doesn't recognize  Vermont's medical marijuana law and the nursing home 
receives federal funding.  That advice came from state registry officials 
at the Department of Public  Safety, the statement said.

"A  registry representative informed us that because our facility receives 
federal  funds, and federal law prohibits the possession and use of 
marijuana, its  possession and use in our facility is against the law, and 
therefore is strictly  prohibited," the statement said.

The U.S.  Supreme Court ruled in June that state laws don't protect users 
from federal  prosecution. At the time, medical marijuana advocates thought 
that decision  would have little impact in Vermont, where the state law is 
intended to help MS,  AIDS and cancer patients with pain and appetite 
problems. "I'd like  to be able to use it," Higgins, 44, said of the drug. 
"It helps with the pain  and it gives me the munchies." Nancy  Lynch of the 
Vermont Marijuana Policy Project, which helped fight for the  medical 
marijuana law, said there should be an allowance for someone in 
his  situation to use marijuana.

"Nursing  homes need to be educated. Hospitals need to be educated. Doctors 
need to be  educated," she said.
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MAP posted-by: Elizabeth Wehrman