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Medical Marijuana Bill Would Ease Limits on Dispensaries

People with debilitating medical conditions might have an easier time getting medical marijuana in Vermont.
MONTPELIER - People with debilitating medical conditions might have an easier time getting medical marijuana in Vermont.

A bill introduced in the Vermont Legislature would ease the rules for marijuana dispensaries.

Shane Lynn runs the Champlain Valley Dispensary, one of three marijuana dispensaries currently open in Vermont. Right now, his business has to comply with many limits: from the number of patients it can serve, to the number of plants it can grow.

"Right now we're at about 300 patients," Lynn said. "So we're not up against that limit yet but I think in the foreseeable future we would be," he said.

The Senate Government Operations committee heard testimony Tuesday about a bill that would remove the current limit of 1,000 patients in the state receiving medical marijuana. The bill would also take away the cap on the number of dispensaries in the state. Right now there are only four allowed in the whole state. It would let dispensaries deliver marijuana to patients' homes, and let the patients grow their own plants. The bill also adds Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to the list of conditions that qualify for a prescription.

"We have patients that have severe disabilities," said Lynn. "And on days that it's zero degrees out, or there's a snow storm, it would be great to be able to bring the medicine to them."

The Department of Public Safety has a few reservations.

"We do not support the expansion of the definition of debilitating medical condition to include Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder," said Francis "Paco" Aumond, who was representing the Department of Public Safety at the committee hearing.

He said the department is also concerned about allowing patients to grow their own pot; it might be harder to enforce the possession limits. Shane Lynn disagrees.

"Growing cannabis, especially medical cannabis, is difficult," Lynn said to the committee. "Patients may think they'll be able to do this, the reality is a lot of them can't," he said. He also wanted to make sure if the new law allows patients to grow their own marijuana, they would still be able to purchase from the dispensary in case they are unable to grow the plant or pests destroy it.

The bill would also let dispensaries have more plants on hand. Currently, dispensaries can have two mature plants, seven immature plants and two ounces of usable marijuana per registered patient. The bill increases those numbers to four mature plants, 14 immature plants and six ounces of marijuana on hand per patient.

Lynn says that will allow his dispensary to make more edibles, which some patients prefer to smoking. He says it takes about eight plants to make certain concentrates for edibles, which are popular in states like Colorado.

Another part of the bill would let dispensaries stop paying corporation taxes, since Vermont law requires them to be non-profits.

The bill is in its early stages of committee; many parts could change before there is a vote.
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