Pubdate: Fri, 15 Apr 2011
Source: Burlington Free Press (VT)
Copyright: 2011 Burlington Free Press
Author: Terri Hallenbeck, Free Press Staff Writer
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


MONTPELIER -- Sen. Philip Baruth stood on the Senate floor Thursday 
evening and told the story of how two relatives -- his grandmother 
and aunt -- had cancer and doctors told them marijuana might help them.

His grandmother was too horrified to consider it, the Chittenden 
County Democrat said. In the case of his aunt, he was a college 
student and found himself in a tough spot.

"I was in the strange position of having my mother come to me and ask 
me if I knew any way we could procure marijuana," he said. He told 
her he did, he said, though he was jeopardizing his student loan, his 
place at college and his record.

It was in memory of his aunt, Baruth said, that he was voting 
Thursday for a bill that would allow up to four medical marijuana 
dispensaries to be established in Vermont.

The majority of his fellow senators agreed, voting 25-4 to give the 
bill preliminary approval.

"We will protect patients by providing a legal source," Sen. Jeanette 
White, D-Windham, told senators.

A 2004 law allowed those with specific medical conditions to sign up 
for the state's medical marijuana registry and use the drug without 
repercussion. This bill would give those patients a legal means of 
obtaining marijuana if they were unable to grow it themselves, White said.

The bill is not without opposition.

"I'm still amazed something illegal under federal guidelines is being 
made legal," said Sen. Richard Mazza, D-Grand Isle/Chittenden, who 
voted against it.

Mazza said he was disappointed in Public Safety Commissioner Keith 
Flynn for supporting the bill, as a previous public safety 
commissioner opposed going against federal law.

Flynn, who was appointed by Gov. Peter Shumlin, who also supports the 
bill, gave his backing after various safety measures were added, 
including a provision that patients may register with only one 
dispensary and that Public Safety will establish rules governing the 

Sen. Vince Illuzzi, R-Essex/Olreans, who is also the Essex County 
prosecutor, said he has heard from police who oppose the 
dispensaries. "It puts law enforcement in a position of violating 
federal law," he said.

Virginia Renfrew, who represents the People with AIDS Coalition, said 
patients need a safe, reliable source of the right strain of 
marijuana for their ailment.

"Dispensaries will know what strain will be good for you," she said. 
"That, for me, is huge. On the black market, you don't know what to look for."

After another vote in the Senate today, the bill goes to the House, 
where Speaker Shap Smith, D-Morristown, said time is running out this 
legislative session, but he will forward the bill to the House Human 
Services Committee.

"My hope is they can move it if they have enough time," he said.  
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake