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Vermont Legislature Passes Medical Marijuana Dispensary Bill

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #683)
Drug War Issues

The Vermont House voted 99-44 last Thursday to approve a bill that would allow for the creation of four medical marijuana dispensaries to serve the state's hundreds of patients. The Senate, which had passed the bill in April on a 25-4 vote, gave final approval to changes made by the House the following day.

It looks like the Green Mountain State is about to get a little greener. (Image via
The measure now goes to the desk of Gov. Peter Schumlin (D), who is expected to sign it. He authored a similar bill in the Senate last year.

The bill, Senate Bill 17, would expand Vermont's medical marijuana law and improve patient access by allowing the sale of marijuana at dispensaries. The four dispensaries would be licensed and regulated by the state Department of Public Safety.

The vote to approve dispensaries came in spite of a letter from the state's US attorney warning that marijuana remains illegal under federal law. That letter was part of a stepped-up campaign by US attorneys in various states to intimidate and rein-in large-scale medical marijuana cultivation and sales.

Supporters argued that the state's existing medical marijuana law is lacking because it forces sick people to grow their own medicine. Requiring sick people to do so "is expensive and difficult and unlike anything else we require anybody else to go through to relieve their pain," said Rep. Eldred French (D-Shrewsbury) in remarks reported by the Vermont Digger.

"We did not provide them with a way to obtain the marijuana that they need to ease their suffering," French said. "And if we can't provide them with a way to do that without insulting their dignity and them involve themselves in what is a criminal activity in the state of Vermont, by going out and trying to buy it elsewhere, if we can't provide that, I think we've failed our duty."

Republican opponents cited the warning from the US attorney and the fact that marijuana remains legal under federal law. But one went so far as to accuse his colleagues of "aiding and abetting" criminal activities.

"I'm also concerned that we are, under the definition of aiding and abetting, becoming aiders and abetters of criminal activity," said Rep. Duncan Kilmartin (R-Newport). "We hear these slicing and dicing words on this floor, claiming we're not doing that, but we are. You know something; we're cowards, because my words now, the votes which I will make in a few minutes, even if it favored this bill, are absolutely immune from any consequences except the electorate turning me out next time. That's it. So we hide behind an immunity with our winks, our nods, and our..."

Kilmartin was then interrupted by Rep. Richard Marek (D-Newfane), who took umbrage at his remarks in a point of order question. "Mr. Speaker, I've listened to this presentation, and I'm afraid it has stepped over the bounds of attacking the integrity and motives of members," he said.

The point of order was "well taken," said Speaker Willem Jewett (D-Ripton) after a brief consultation at the podium. "While every member has right to challenge the actions of the body and to express an opinion in opposition to the body, that right has limits when we speak in a derogatory or an insulting way, either towards individuals or towards the group," Jewett said.

And Vermont is set to become the next dispensary state.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


gypski (not verified)

Every medical patient in every medical state should have without reservation, the right to be able to grow their own.  If they should also have the right to have someone grow it for them if they are incapable. 

Why are the states trying to take over the dispensary business? 

We know they can't even run the states correctly, and they want patients to allow them to mange something they have been denying for years?  Leave it up to the people who know what they are doing, and keep the state out of the growing and dispensing business.  They are best at just doing licensing and collecting a fair tax rate.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 11:26am Permalink
catmannova (not verified)

In reply to by gypski (not verified)

Before this bill, patients and caregivers could grow their own. The problem is that a lot of people don't have the time to learn how to grow the types of strains that they need. Now, these people can finally have a place to purchase it.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 3:25pm Permalink
Jake024 (not verified)

"Cowards"?! Pah! it is cowardice to maintain the status-quo for an unjust law.. Maybe it was cowardice to try and end alcohol prohibition.. the ONLY reason he was voting against the bill is to stop "the electorate turning me out next time".. so he is the coward who sells his principles (or what is right and wrong as he probably doesn't have any principles) for votes..

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 11:59am Permalink
darkcycle (not verified)

"You know something; we’re cowards, because my words now, the votes which I will make in a few minutes, even if it favored this bill, are absolutely immune from any consequences except the electorate turning me out next time. That’s it. So we hide behind an immunity with our winks, our nods, and our--"

And if he takes his "principled" stand and votes counter to the will of his constituents, he should be kicked to the curb. That's democracy (as if we had that here). He was, ostensibly, elected to serve those constituents, not to serve himself.

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 12:47pm Permalink
noydb (not verified)

Finally, some legislators with the balls to ignore the feds intimidation letters and do the right thing.

Washington and Montana need to step up and do the same.

Wed, 05/11/2011 - 8:37pm Permalink
MARK R. MITTEER (not verified)

What, there are 17 States + D.C. that's 1/3 of the country! So unless the Federal Government intends to strip the Bill of Rights from the US Constitution then they had better start listening to  the people and not those Corporations handing out hush money for keeping Prohibition in place! Cannabis/Hemp the most useful plants on the planet and our Federal and State Governments have been lying about the effects of these plants for close to 100 years! Nixon declared the war on drugs! He was a Criminal! Driven from office and Pardoned by Ford so he couldn't be Prosecuted


We have a lot of elected officials that feel it is their job to tell us what we are allowed to and what we are not allowed to do in situations that harm no one and are a matter of personal choice. The Republicans seem to be trying to imprison or enslave us for our own protection and the Democrats trying to put us in a playpen so we can't hurt ourselves or get into anything they might disapprove of!
I'll take my Freedom and Liberty back and take my chances out in the  world! It may be a risk but that risk is better than being enslaved by the Governing bodies that are supposed to represent us, not control us!


Repeal Prohibition! End the war on drugs and stop wasting Taxpayer funds on pet projects!

Thu, 05/12/2011 - 1:05am Permalink
Mr. Herb (not verified)

If the Vermont republicans are worried about "aiding and abetting" criminal activities, they should consider this.  The United States government isn't waging war on drugs: they are waging war on the American people.  In a war, the opposing forces are referred to as "enemies".  Prohibition has made enemies of the United States government and the American people.  Therefore, whenever any legislator at any level of government supports an appropriations bill that provides funding for the so called war on drugs, they are literally giving aid and comfort to America's enemies.  Our Constitution defines the giving of aid and comfort to our enemies as treason and goes on the define treason as a capital offense.  I think the republicans are standing in quick sand arguing with the sign that says "Warning Quicksand".

Thu, 05/12/2011 - 2:27pm Permalink
Moonrider (not verified)

In reply to by Mr. Herb (not verified)

Most of the Democrats in government are doing exactly the same thing, including (but not by any stretch of the imagination limited to) Obama, Biden,and Gregoire.  Quit viewing this as a left vs right issue, it is NOT, it IS a tyranny vs freedom issue.  As someone pointed out elsewhere, two candidates from the most libertarian wing of the Republican Party are pushing for reform -- Ron Paul is arguing for full legalization of ALL drugs at the federal level and Gary Johnson is advancing the decriminalization of cannabis and treating other drugs as a medical issue rather than a criminal issue (I prefer Ron Paul's position).  If you REALLY want an end to the war on drugs, you must support one of those two, no Democrat presidential candidate (especially Obama) is going to even attempt to make any changes whatsoever, and most Dems in congress (with two exceptions -- Dennis Kucinich and Barney Franks) aren't even talking about it.

Fri, 05/13/2011 - 3:19am Permalink
Joe Law (not verified)

Though marijuana is still illegal in federal law, it is a good move that the four medical marijuana dispensaries were created. If it is purely for personal medical use, and the use is limited to patients who truly need it, then by all means, it should be allowed.

Fri, 11/25/2011 - 12:04am Permalink

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