State News

Medical marijuana expansion gets governor’s signature

By Elizabeth Hewitt, VTDigger

Gov. Phil Scott signed into law a bill that expands Vermont’s medical marijuana system.

The legislation, S.16, expands the list of conditions that qualify for the medical marijuana registry to include Parkinson’s disease, Crohn’s disease and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as of July 1.

Under the new law, PTSD patients will also need to receive regular psychiatric or therapeutic care in order to qualify.

The new law also will allow one more medical marijuana dispensary to operate in Vermont.

It creates one additional dispensary license, which will bring the total number of dispensaries in the state to five. Under the law, another license will be created when the number of registered patients in Vermont reaches 7,000. Currently about 4,000 people are on the registry, according to legislators.

Also, each dispensary now will be able to have two locations. Previously, they were restricted to one.

Bernie Barrier, of Vermont Green Grow, applauded the signing of the bill, Thursday, June 8.

“I feel it’s a good step forward,” Barrier said.

Barrier said his business will consider applying for the new dispensary license.

Supporters of the bill say it will help get dispensaries set up in areas that are not served under the current model, including Bennington County and the Northeast Kingdom.

“I know that medical cannabis may not be for everybody, but I feel that the choice to say yes or no to it should be for everybody,” he said.

Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, was a strong supporter of the bill.

“I think it’ll help an awful lot of people to relieve symptoms of various ailments,” Sears said.

He also said he believes it will improve the distribution of dispensaries around the state, so patients are not forced to make long drives to dispensary locations far away.

Meanwhile, Sears said work continues behind the scenes on this year’s other marijuana bill, a measure that would have legalized possession of recreational pot, which Scott vetoed.

Sears said he and legislative colleagues have put together a draft of a new bill in an effort to meet Scott’s requirements. They sent a draft to the governor’s staff last week and were waiting to hear back.

Sears said he remains hopeful that marijuana legalization will come up before the Legislature again when lawmakers reconvene June 21 for a veto session.

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