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home : top news : top news August 28, 2014

4/9/2014 8:50:00 AM
NEK: Lawmakers Want Med. Marijuana Dispensary In NEK
Robin Smith
Staff Writer

NEWPORT CITY -- The city council this week put the final touches on a ban of medical marijuana dispensaries within city limits, even as the Legislature is considering bills that could expand access to the drug into the Northeast Kingdom.

The council Monday evening signed off on new zoning language that bans dispensaries, over the protests of several residents who said sick people would have to travel hours to get medical marijuana.

Meanwhile, the Legislature is considering three different bills that would allow dispensaries to deliver medical marijuana to patients or their caregivers.

One of those bills, S.247, has been approved by the Vermont Senate and is now being considered in the House. The bill by Sen. Jeanette White, D-Windham, would allow the creation of two new dispensaries, one of which White said should be in the Northeast Kingdom and the other in the Bennington area.

The state already has four approved dispensaries.

White spoke about her bill and her hopes that the House will help move it forward into law this year on Vermont Edition Tuesday on Vermont Public Radio.

White said she did not know if anyone or any group had already applied to open a dispensary in the NEK or had intentions to do so.

The bill would increase the number of approved patients that dispensaries could serve and ask the Vermont Department of Public Safety to establish rules for secure transportation of medical marijuana to patients.

Shayne Lynn of Champlain Valley Dispensary told Vermont Edition host Jane Lindholm that many of the patients who get their medical marijuana at his two dispensaries in Burlington and Brattleboro are sick or suffer handicaps and find the weekly trip "difficult and arduous."

Secure delivery of medical marijuana would increase privacy for patients and be helpful for those people who are so ill that they rely on caregivers to get and administer their medicines.

"It would be helpful," Lynn said.

He said he has no plans to add a dispensary in the NEK.

Current law allowed the creation of four dispensaries in Vermont and allowed municipalities to ban them -- as Newport City has done. Lynn can grow marijuana in his non-profit and registered Burlington facility and transport it to Brattleboro for sale there.

There are strict rules to transport medical marijuana, requiring a manifest of the amount and type of marijuana and a locked box. And all those who handle medical marijuana must be approved by the Department of Public Safety.

White said on VPR that the department is very good at developing rules that would keep the medical marijuana secure while still allowing transportation.

The bills before the House expand the number of illnesses that would allow a patient to qualify for medical marijuana, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

Dispensaries are required to pay an annual registration fee of $30,000 to cover the cost to manage the program by the Department of Public Safety.

White is hopeful that the Legislature will expand the medical marijuana program this year.

Newport City already hosts a methadone clinic for the treatment of opiates and heroin addicts. The council has said that other communities in the NEK could host a medical marijuana dispensary.

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