Vermont Senate Passes Medical Marijuana Bill

Marijuana Policy Project press release

The Vermont Senate today passed S. 76, the medical marijuana bill, by a vote of 22-7. In the wake of this resounding endorsement, supporters are increasingly optimistic about the measure's prospects for becoming law this year.

"Last year, the Vermont House passed a nearly identical bill by a vote of 82-59, becoming the first Republican-controlled state legislative chamber ever to pass a medical marijuana bill," said Billy Rogers, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, based in Washington, D.C. "We have every reason to expect a similar vote this year. Then, the question will be whether or not Governor Jim Douglas follows the will of Vermont's citizens and their elected representatives."

Vermonters strongly support protection from arrest for seriously ill medical marijuana patients. In a poll conducted last year by the Lucas Organization, commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project, 75.7 percent of Vermonters said they "support changing the law to allow people with cancer, AIDS, and other serious illnesses to use and grow their own marijuana for medical purposes, if they have the approval of their physicians."

Gov. Douglas has given somewhat mixed signals on the issue. In a Feb. 26 interview with the Rutland Herald, he implied he might oppose the bill, citing federal opposition to medical marijuana. But in an interview in the March issue of Out in the Mountains, Douglas said, "There's a lot of evidence that it does some good and is effective where other substances aren't for certain patients and certain types of pain." He promised to speak to the governors of the eight states with existing medical marijuana laws "and ask them about their experience."

"If Governor Douglas speaks to those eight other governors, what he will hear is that across the board these laws have worked smoothly, with few problems," Rogers said. "He will hear that the federal government has never challenged the right of states to protect seriously ill medical marijuana patients under state law. And once he hears that eight state medical marijuana laws are working well, we are optimistic he will act to protect the sick and vulnerable in Vermont from the risk of arrest and jail for the simple act of taking their medicine."

With 11,000 members nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project works to minimize the harm associated with marijuana -- both the consumption of marijuana and the laws that are intended to prohibit such use. MPP believes that the greatest harm associated with marijuana is imprisonment. To this end, MPP focuses on removing criminal penalties for marijuana use, with a particular emphasis on making marijuana medically available to seriously ill people who have the approval of their doctors.

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