When you hear us and other outlets refer to “sixteen medical marijuana states and DC,” you should be careful to remember that really means there’s pseudo-legalized California, five semi-functional medical marijuana states (Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Montana*, and Michigan), four quasi-functional medical marijuana states (Hawaii, Rhode Island, New Mexico, Arizona), four dysfunctional medical marijuana states (Alaska, Maine, Nevada, and Vermont), and three medical marijuana states in name only (New Jersey, Delaware, and DC) that haven’t actually protected any users.
What I mean by that: In California, anyone who wants to use marijuana for a medical purpose can do so. In the “semi-functional” states, most of the serious medical users can qualify and have some level of access to medicine. In the “quasi-functional” states, fewer people are able to qualify and access. In the “dysfunctional” states, less than 1,000 users qualify.
Now in Vermont, the proponents of a dispensary system there want to ensure that Vermont remains “dysfunctional” by capping the total number of qualifying patients – by law – to only 1,000.
Vermont has about 450 medical marijuana patients. They currently grow their own marijuana or have a designated caregiver do it for them. However, that will change soon.
As many as four distribution centers state-wide could be operational by the end of the year. Legislation prohibits more and limits the number of patients in the state to 1,000.
According to the Vermont Department of Public Health, “about one out of three American women and one out of two American men now living will eventually have cancer” and according to the Centers for Disease Control, there will be 919 men diagnosed this year with prostate cancer alone in Vermont, another 481 will get lung cancer. So, just for one condition and only two incidences of that condition, there are a potential 1,400 qualifying medical marijuana patients.
So, technically, this law could create a situation where a state bureaucrat has to tell someone with cancer, “Sorry, you’re #1,001. You’ll just have to wait til one of the thousand patients dies for a spot to open up.”
Patients and advocates say strict regulations in Vermont – along with the patient limit – should limit fears of raids. Vermont cities and towns can ban or zone dispensaries as they see fit.
“I think that hopefully for the federal government when they look at Vermont they look at Vermont as being a model,” said Virginia Renfrew, a spokeswoman for the Vermont People with AIDS Coalition.
That’s where medical marijuana is heading and where some of the people who support medical marijuana want to take it. Vermont doesn’t even recognize glaucoma as a qualifying condition and protects only 0.07% of its population under its medical marijuana law. Who knew there were Box Canyons in Vermont?
Only one person will be allowed in a dispensary at a time under the rules and customers will be seen by appointment only. No customer will be allowed in the building without their state-issued medical marijuana card
“They did a real good job. They went from the position of ‘What’s best for the patients’ first,” said [state-registered medical marijuana patient Mark] Tucci. He says the second priority was preventing diversion to non-patients.
Tucci says he would advise most of his fellow patients to use a dispensary but he won’t be walking though that door soon. That’s because the law prevents those who buy medicine at dispensaries from growing their own.
So if you want to shop at one of the four state dispensaries, you get to go in, one at a time, to a building 1,000′ from schools or daycares, if your local community allows it at all, so it will be zoned into someplace far from where you are. You’ll be video recorded at all times and police can come into the dispensary at any time with no warning for a “compliance check”. Your dispensary can start with 12 mature plants until it signs up patients, then limited to just 28 mature plants for up to 14 patients. It’s going to cost $2,500 (non-refundable) to apply to be a dispensary, $20,000 first year and $30,000 each year after to maintain the license, and start-up costs for all the massive security and tracking run about $150,000. And according to a recent poll, 90% of Vermont’s patients favor this.
The time for legalization is now.
* One could argue Montana has slipped into the “quasi-functional” category after “repeal lite”. It’s a vague categorization based on total patients served and ease of access. My breaking point between “semi-” and “quasi-” is 10,000 patients and “quasi-” to “dys-” is 1,000 patients.