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Follow VPR's statehouse coverage, featuring Pete Hirschfeld and Bob Kinzel in our Statehouse Bureau in Montpelier.

Lawmakers Expand Medical Marijuana Law

The number of people who can obtain medical marijuana would increase under a bill that has now passed the Legislature and is on its way to the governor for his signature.

The bill also calls for a study to determine how much money the state could reap in new tax revenue if marijuana is legalized in the future.

Under Vermont’s current medical marijuana law, no more than 1,000 people can be registered to receive marijuana in total from the four dispensaries in the state. Those dispensaries are located in Burlington, Montpelier, Brattleboro and Brandon.

"I think it does make sense for the Legislature to ask if we were to go down this route, what would the implications be, what would the revenue impacts be?" - Gov. Peter Shumlin, supporting the marijuana tax study

The bill doesn’t add any additional dispensaries but it does remove the 1,000-person cap so that many more people can participate in this program.

Senator Jeannette White, D-Windham, says it’s important to eliminate the cap because the current limit is forcing some people with medical problems to buy marijuana illegally.

“Because there were a number of people who were not about to even consider it because they would have had to buy it illegally and they weren’t willing to do that,” White said. “Now that they can buy it legally and register at a dispensary and be assured of the quality of the product they’re registering.”

The legislation also calls on the Shumlin Administration to conduct a study of how much new revenue the state could receive if marijuana is legalized in Vermont. Gov. Peter Shumlin thinks the tax study is a very good idea.

“Colorado and Washington State. thankfully, have gone before any other state trying to figure out what legalization means,” said Shumlin. “I think it does make sense for the Legislature to ask if we were to go down this route what would the implications be what would the revenue impacts be, what would it really mean for Vermont ?”

Matt Simon is the New England Political Director of the national Marijuana Policy Project. His group is working to legalize marijuana throughout the country.

Simon says the tax study will provide important information whenever lawmakers debate a bill to legalize marijuana.

“Certainly legislators I believe anticipate there will be a robust debate on that issue in the next session,” said Simon. “And I think it’s terrific that they want to be prepared for that debate and have the best available data at their disposal before they get into the details of that issue.”

The bill also allows seriously ill Vermonters to have their medical marijuana delivered directly to their homes under strict state supervision.