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Vermont is the latest state to legalize marijuana dispensaries, passing the legislation with bi-partisan support earlier this month. Governor Peter Shumlin signed the bill on June 2, despite pressure from the federal government to not pass the controversial legislation.
S. 17 permits up to four medi-pot dispensaries to be established in Vermont, making the Green Mountain State the eighth in the nation to legalize dispensaries. Maine, Rhode Island, Colorado, New Mexico, New Jersey, Delaware and Arizona all allow dispensaries. Vermont already allows patients and/or caregivers to grow pot, but added the dispensaries for those unable to grow the drug for themselves. Nationwide, 15 states and the District of Columbia allow the medical use of marijuana.
The Vermont Department of Public Safety will oversee the application process and conduct background checks of viable candidates applying to establish one of the four dispensaries. The department is expected to issue licenses for the state dispensaries within a year. Dispensaries will be permitted to grow 28 mature plants, 98 immature plants and possess 28 ounces of usable medicine. Dispensaries with more than 14 patients can grow two mature plants and seven immature plants and possess two ounces of medi-pot for each patient.
Last month, U.S. attorney for Vermont, Tristram J. Coffin, sent letters to state lawmakers warning them against voting for S. 17. His threat did not stop the bill from passing with bi-partisan support. Gov. Shumlin signed the bill the same day that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was in Rhode Island promising that the U.S. Justice Department will work with governors in states that have legalized medical marijuana in order to reach a “satisfactory solution” in establishing medical marijuana dispensaries and to reach “clarification” on the issue “sooner rather than later.”
Bianca Slota, spokeswoman for Shumlin, said the governor does not minimize the threat from Coffin but he still feels that patients need safe places to buy marijuana to cope with medical ailments.“Obviously, it gives us something to think about,” she said. “We are not brushing [Coffin’s letter] aside, but it’s going to be a year before the dispensaries open. We will have to see what happens at the federal level.”