Montpelier, VT: Legislation allowing state-qualified patients to grow and possess marijuana for medicinal purposes will become law, Gov. James Douglas (R) announced Wednesday. Douglas - who had previously spoken against the measure - said that the proposal will become law without his signature. The House and Senate had given final approval of the measure earlier this week.
As passed, Senate Bill 76 legalizes the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana and/or the cultivation of up to three marijuana plants (one mature plant, two immature plants) for patients suffering from cancer, HIV, AIDS and/or multiple sclerosis. Patients and their caregivers must be registered with the state Department of Public Safety, and their cannabis must be stored in a "secure indoor facility."
As introduced, S. 76 allowed patients to grow as many as seven plants, and expanded the number of qualifying medical conditions to include glaucoma, seizures, and chronic pain. After receiving Senate approval in 2003, the House narrowed S. 76 earlier this month.
According to local news reports, Bush administration officials strongly lobbied Gov. Douglas to veto the bill, and had called the governor personally to ask him to reject it.
Since 1996, voters in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Maine, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Washington DC have passed initiative laws barring state law enforcement from arresting and prosecuting patients who possess and use medicinal cannabis under a doctor's supervision. (Arizona and DC's laws were never implemented.) In 2000, the Hawaii legislature passed similar legislation exempting state-qualified medical marijuana patients from arrest. Most recently, Maryland's legislature passed a medical marijuana affirmative defense law in 2003. This law requires the court to consider a defendant's use of medical marijuana to be a mitigating factor in marijuana-related state prosecution.