It’s official. Earlier today, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin signed the bill that allows the creation of up to four medical marijuana dispensaries in his state, into law. The bill had passed the legislature earlier this year, despite opposition from some members of the law enforcement community, but now that it’s official, Vermont has become the eighth state in the country to put into place a way for registered MMJ users to get their drugs.
Medical marijuana has been allowed in Vermont since 2004, and the state’s registry currently numbers more than 300 authorized users. Existing law already allowed caregivers and/or patients to grow limited amounts of cannabis, but advocates of the new dispensary law argued that successful growth can be difficult, and that purchasing marijuana on the black market is dangerous.
State Senator Jeanette White, chair of the Vermont Senate Committee on Government Operations, the committee that collected extensive testimony about the bill said that when MMJ was originally decriminalized in the state, patients were left in a “tough spot” since they had no reliable way to get their medication.
In an interview with the press, White elaborated, “We left people in a terrible position where we allow medication for legitimate symptom relief and no way to get it legally, and now we’re providing safe access to a safe product.”
Despite the signing of the dispensary bill into law, dispensaries won’t open immediately. Instead, the Vermont Department of Public Safety, which will have oversight over such operations, is developing rules to carry out the law, a process that could take six or seven months to complete, although the law also requires that at least four licenses for dispensaries be authorized within a year (providing qualified people apply to run them).
The provision of having four dispensaries within the year was added, according to White, because of the possibility that, “… someone could say, ‘We’re not going to do this,’ and drag the rules out for the next three years.’” But she added that when it comes to getting dispensaries actually operating, the Department of Public Safety is “…really taking this seriously.”
White also said that she has been in communication with two people interested in setting up dispensaries.