Pubdate: Fri, 12 Jan 2007
Source: Bennington Banner (VT)
Copyright: 2007 by MediaNews Group, Inc.
Author: Neal Goswami, Staff Writer, Bennington Banner
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)


BENNINGTON -- A Manchester resident testified before the Senate 
Judiciary Committee Thursday in support of a new medical marijuana bill.

Local Man Testifies

Mark Tucci, 49, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, told the 
committee the state should revise a law passed in 2004 to allow 
approved patients to grow more marijuana for medical use. Tucci's 
testimony Thursday was in support of S.07, a bill proposed by Sen. 
Dick Sears, D-Bennington, last month.

"A lot of people have asked me why I've introduced this bill, and 
Mark is the reason. ... That's the way legislation works in Vermont 
because we're a small state and you really do hear from your 
constituents," said Sears.

The bill seeks to raise the amount of marijuana a registered patient 
can possess to six mature plants, 18 immature plants and four ounces 
of usable marijuana. Current law allows for one mature plant, two 
immature plants and two ounces of usable marijuana. In addition, the 
registration fee for patients would be reduced from $100 to $50.

Sears' bill also expands the number of conditions that would qualify 
for medical marijuana. In addition to ailments such as cancer, AIDS 
and multiple sclerosis, the bill would allow for patients with 
glaucoma, cachexia, wasting syndrome and severe pain, nausea or seizures.

Vermont, one of 11 states that allow medical marijuana use, currently 
has 33 registered patients.

Tucci said when Vermont became the 10th state to pass a medical 
marijuana law in 2004, it essentially became a clinical trial for 
those three diseases. He believes the law has been beneficial and was 
a good starting point.

"Overall ... the program works. A very small group of the sickest 
Vermonters with AIDS, cancer and multiple sclerosis now have a very 
important tool to help them where nothing else seemed to or where the 
side effects from the real drugs were too debilitating to handle," he said.

However, it is time the state expand the law to allow patients to 
grow more, said Tucci. He said the plants he is allowed to grow often 
die or do not yield a sufficient amount of marijuana, causing Tucci 
to spend $400 to $500 dollars of his $850 monthly disability check 
purchasing marijuana on the black market.

"I smoke roughly two ounces a month. At present, I can grow about two 
ounces in a three to four-month period. That means two thirds of my 
meds have to be bought on the black market. ... The unknown strain 
and unknown growing conditions pretty much guarantee that the quality 
won't be the same," Tucci told the committee.

By purchasing marijuana on the street, Tucci said he is 
unintentionally encouraging recreational use of the drug. He said 
Sears' law could change that.

"By going out into the black market, I'm breaking the laws that our 
officers are sworn to uphold. ... The way to end all this is to let 
me grow enough medicine."

Tucci's testimony details the need for the bill, said Sears.

"Mark makes such a great case. He has to go out and pay ... for good 
marijuana that will do the same thing as what he grows," said Sears.

Law enforcement officials and the state's attorneys association will 
likely oppose changes to the current law, said Sears.

"They feel it's working fine. Basically, the opposition from law 
enforcement and other groups is, number one, the amounts; and number 
two, what diseases should be covered under the law," he said.

Tucci said the reasoning behind the opposition no longer makes sense.

"My big question with that is, 'why?' The concerns they have now are 
the same concerns they had two years ago. The sky didn't fall," he said.

Tucci said he has spoken with his two sons about his use of medical 
marijuana, and they are able to understand the difference between 
medication and recreational use.

"It's pretty cut and dry. ... to them, it's no real excitement. It's 
not a drug, it's a medicine."

Sears said he hopes to have the bill through the Judicial Committee 
within a week. The bill must then pass through the Heath and Welfare 
Committee before it reaches the Senate floor. 
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