Vermont became the eighth state to legalize and regulate medical marijuana dispensaries when Governor Peter Shumlin signed S. 7 into law on June 2, 2011. S. 17 was approved by the Vermont House of Representatives on May 5 and Shumlin, who has a history of being in favor of medicinal marijuana, had already indicated that he would sign it.
The new law addresses a critical shortcoming of Vermont’s earlier medicinal marijuana law that was passed in 2004. The 2004 law left medicinal marijuana patients in a bind because although it allowed them to posses marijuana, it did not provide for a legal means for them to obtain it other than growing it themselves or having a designated caregiver grow it for them.
These two methods proved to be understandably difficult for many patients who were too ill to grow marijuana themselves and without caregivers with the ability or time to do so either. “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,” says Senator Jeanette White, chair of the Senate Committee on Government Operations and one of the sponsors of the bill.
The state-run dispensaries provided for under the law will be overseen by the Vermont Department of Public Safety, who are expected to issue rules and regulations within six to seven months. The law requires that four licenses to operate dispensaries are issued within one year.
A summary of the steps the bill passed through before it was signed into law can be viewed here.