HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html State Will Legalize Medical Marijuana Use
Pubdate: Thu, 20 May 2004
Source: Times Argus (VT)
Copyright: 2004 Times Argus
Author: Darren M. Allen, and John Zicconi, Vermont Press Bureau
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Note: Reporter Claude R. Marx contributed to this story.


MONTPELIER - A measure legalizing the use and possession of marijuana
by those suffering from AIDS, cancer or multiple sclerosis jumped its
final legislative hurdle Wednesday, paving the way for it to become
law without the signature of Gov. James Douglas.

Senators, voting 20-7 in favor of the heavily lobbied bill, made
Vermont's Legislature only the second in the country - Hawaii's is the
other - to legalize the use of medical marijuana.

The bill was sent to the governor, who confirmed that he will not sign
it, meaning it automatically becomes law in five days. Vermont will
become the ninth state with such a law on the books.

"I will not oppose this decision of the elected representatives of the
people, nor will I support it by signing it into law," Douglas said in
a statement. "I cannot actively support a measure that allows
Vermonters to be subject to prosecution under federal law, increases
the availability of a controlled substance and sends a dangerous
message to our children."

According to administration officials, the White House asked Douglas
to veto the bill. In fact, President Bush's deputy drug enforcement
chief came to Vermont last month in a day-long lobbying blitz and, in
the last several days, a Bush administration official placed a phone
call to Douglas urging him to reject the bill.

The new law is actually a much narrower package than one passed
earlier this year by the Senate. And while the governor was poised to
veto that measure, he was said to be aware of the political popularity
of making marijuana available to terminally ill people.

"I believe that we owe Vermonters with debilitating medical conditions
the very best that medical science has to offer," Douglas said.
"Proven science has not demonstrated that marijuana is part of that.
Despite that fact, marijuana offers those with the most painful
chronic diseases a measure of hope in a time of suffering."

The measure's supporters included the leader of Vermont's Catholics,
who Wednesday praised the governor for allowing it to become law.

"I believe this bill is a very encouraging indication that our
Legislature and our governor are seriously concerned about improving
end-of-life care in Vermont," said Bishop Kenneth Angell of the
Burlington Diocese. "I know this was a hard decision for Gov. Douglas."

Under the new law, Vermonters will be allowed to grow up to three
marijuana plants in a locked room and possess two ounces of "usable
pot." Users will be under the supervision of the Department of Public

The medical marijuana law was the highest profile action on a day that
many thought might be the biennium's last. Despite a late afternoon
handshake agreement on the $955 million operating budget, legislative
leaders agreed to return to the Statehouse today, which almost
everyone agrees will be the session's last day.
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