Vermont Senate Approves Bill Decriminalizing Use of Medical Marijuana
The Vermont Senate on Thursday approved 22-7 a bill (SB 76) that would prohibit the arrest or prosecution of people using marijuana to treat medical problems, including HIV/AIDS, the Associated Press reports. Although the bill does not legalize the use of the drug, the bill would exempt from arrest and prosecution people suffering from diseases with "severe, persistent and intractable symptoms" such as HIV/AIDS, cancer, multiple sclerosis and glaucoma who use marijuana. Marijuana can be used to ease nausea, pain and other symptoms commonly associated with terminal or chronic illnesses. Those qualifying for an exemption would be issued a card indicating their status and would be allowed to possess up to two ounces of marijuana, three mature plants or four immature plants, which must be kept "under lock and key." Supporters of the measure called it a "compassionate response to people suffering" from AIDS and other diseases, according to the Associated Press. Other observers questioned whether the law conflicted with federal statutes. The bill now goes to the House, where a similar measure passed last year. Vermont Gov. James Douglas (R) said that he does not support the bill but has not said whether he would veto it. Other states that have laws allowing the use of marijuana for medical purposes include Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington (Sneyd, Associated Press, 3/13).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.