Pubdate: Tue, 01 Jan 2013
Source: Rutland Herald (VT)
Copyright: 2013 Rutland Herald
Author: Brent Curtis, Staff Writer


The Rutland Town Select Board has decided not to ban medical marijuana
dispensaries in town.

Following a trend set by a number of other communities in Rutland
County, Select Board members recently lent their perspectives to a
debate taking place in towns around the state.

"Mainly because our neighboring communities have been talking about
it, I thought it should get a thorough airing," Selectman James Hall

No specific request regarding a marijuana dispensary has been
submitted or discussed with the town. Some communities, including
Rutland and Fair Haven, are working toward, or have already
implemented, bans on the opening of dispensaries that would legally
provide marijuana to those prescribed the drug.

One other town, next-door Pittsford, has also decided not to ban
dispensaries, but officials in that town made it clear that they
weren't altogether approving them either.

"It's a fine line between the two," Pittsford Select Board Chairman
Hank Pelkey said early in December. "It can be construed that way but
at this point we voted to not (create) an ordinance to prohibit them."

The decision reached in Rutland Town didn't technically involve a

But all five members were in consensus that no action should be taken
to prohibit them and at least one member, selectman and local lawyer
John Paul Faignant, spoke passionately about patients' rights to have
access to them.

"It's proven to have medical value for the treatment of some cancers
and eye conditions," Faignant said. "Frankly, to say that we're
prohibiting it just because it's marijuana sounds kind of hypocritical
to me."

Faignant, a former town police officer, said he had reviewed the
requirements for both patients and prescribers of medical marijuana
and was convinced that anyone interested in using the drug for
recreational use would have an easier time seeking it elsewhere.

"No casual user of that drug would ever bother going through the
process when you can get marijuana pretty readily on a day's notice
anywhere in Rutland," he said. "The law requires a six month
documented relationship with a physician who has taken a course on
prescribing marijuana for medical uses."

Faignant said it was far easier to obtain and abuse medicines that are
more potent and carry more social consequences than marijuana. Drugs
such as Oxycontin - a powerful opiate-based painkiller - can be
prescribed with much less hassle and oversight than medical marijuana,
he said.

Fellow Selectman Steve Hawley agreed.

"There's a lot of philosophy that marijuana is a door opener to other
drugs, but the way this is set up it's a lot more regulated than
normal drugs at a pharmacy," Hawley said.

During debates in Rutland City, Police Chief James Baker said such
dispensaries had become crime magnets in other states.

But Faignant said in an interview after the board meeting last month
that continued attempts to criminalize marijuana were futile and

"They never got the memo that we've lost the war on drugs when it
comes to marijuana," Faignant said of the city's position. "They still
think it's a drug they can successfully fight."

Rutland Town Police Chief Ed Dumas has the distinction of being not
only the top cop in town but also a member of the Rutland Police Department.

Asked where he stood on the board's decision, he said he respects the
board's views and has drawn a line between their policies and his duties.

He also said he did not weigh in on the board's discussion.

"They're looking at it from the medical side, I look at it from the
law enforcement side," Dumas said. "It's a drug that has practical
uses but one that can be abused as well." 
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