Medical marijuana by state.

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Postby palmspringsbum » Wed May 24, 2006 4:52 pm

Seven Days wrote:ISSUES

Smoked Out

Could the feds snuff out a Vermonter's medical marijuana?

Seven Days
by Ken Picard (05/24/06).

<img src=bin/higgins-shayne.jpg align=right title="Shayne Higgins">Shayne Higgins flinches and shields his eyes from the sun as though it were a laser beam cutting through his skull. He sits helplessly in his motorized wheelchair and waits, in visible pain, as two friends hastily assemble a makeshift ramp so he can roll into the house and out of the daylight.

Higgins is pale, gaunt and skeletal, with hollow, sunken eyes and limbs that are withered and curled from the ravages of advanced multiple sclerosis. He appears drained by the 10-minute ordeal of getting into the home of his friends "Willy" and "Tessa" (not their real names). Willy is Higgins' medical advocate and registered marijuana caregiver. About once a week, Higgins makes the laborious, 40-minute trip from his home at the Starr Farm Nursing Center in Burlington to this house in rural Chittenden County so he can smoke medical marijuana.

Higgins, 45, was diagnosed with MS in 1998 after suffering a seizure. Since then, he's lost his eyesight and most of his mobility. Higgins speaks in slow, slurred sentences and fades in and out of lucidity. His spaced-out demeanor is only partly due to the MS, Willy explains; mostly, it's a result of the 14 to 17 prescription drugs Higgins takes every day to control his pain, seizures and muscle spasms.

Higgins is one of 29 Vermonters registered with the Department of Public Safety to legally consume cannabis under the state's medical marijuana law, which took effect in October 2004. But unlike other medical marijuana patients, Higgins isn't allowed to consume cannabis in his own home. Starr Farm's administrators have told him that they could lose their Medicaid certification and federal funding if they allow him to possess or use a drug the U.S. government considers illegal.

Last summer, a Starr Farm staff member found a marijuana cigarette in Higgins' belongings and called the police. Although he had a Marijuana Registry ID card, the Burlington officer confiscated the joint; no charges were filed. Since then, the nursing home's administrator has told Higgins that he may not keep marijuana in his private room or smoke it anywhere on the grounds.

Willy calls the nursing home's position unjust, unreasonable and absurd. "They say they can't allow Shayne to use medical marijuana because they receive federal funding," Willy says. "Yet they're using a federal van and a federal driver to bring him here." Willy also points to Starr Farm's own "Resident Admission Agreement," which states that each resident "has a right to be free of interference, coercion, discrimination or reprisal from the facility in exercising his or her rights."

Higgins appears to be the only medical marijuana patient in Vermont caught in this cloudy legal area, but his case raises a number of larger questions: Does federal law always trump state law when it comes to the use of medical marijuana? Can the U.S. government use the threat of prosecution and financial penalties to enforce federal policies that are incongruous with state laws? And, more generally, do nursing home residents have the same privacy rights and protection from unreasonable search and seizure as people who live in private residences?

Once Higgins is inside the house, Willy goes into a bedroom, where two nearly mature pot plants are growing in a closet, bathed in the orange glow of an expensive lighting system. By law, Willy can only grow two mature plants and one immature plant at a time, and can keep no more than 2 ounces of dried, smokeable weed on hand. One of the plants, about 3 feet tall, is thick, green and bushy. Willy shakes his head at the other one, which is shorter and scrawnier. "This one's called Jack Hair. It's piss-poor and has no medicinal effect. I'll probably have to destroy it," he says.

Next, Willy opens a locked cabinet where he stores a vial of dried buds harvested from an earlier plant. Back in the living room, he hands the vial to Tessa, who packs Higgins a pipe full of the spongy, green bud and helps him light it. Higgins draws a deep puff and starts coughing slowly. Minutes later, the effects are visible. Higgins' curled fingers unclench from the armrests of the wheelchair and his taut frame relaxes, like a twisted rubber band returning to its natural shape. He reclines his head, closes his eyes for a moment, and manages a brief smile.

"I'd smoke at least once a day if I could," Higgins says slowly, putting the pipe down after two hits. "It calms my nerves."

Several minutes later, Tessa brings him a sandwich. Higgins' appetite is much better after he's smoked, she says. Before his arrival, Tessa expressed concern that her friend has lost a lot of weight, especially after a recent bout with bedsores. Several weeks ago, the swelling in his leg got so bad, they feared it might have to be amputated.

Willy retired from IBM after 30 years as a technician. He became Higgins' marijuana caregiver about six months ago after going through a state-mandated criminal-background check. Willy isn't paid for his work; in fact, it costs him $100 a year to be listed on the marijuana registry. He also covers the other expenses of growing Higgins' pot.

Willy has learned a lot about MS and cannabis' unique ability to relieve its symptoms, as well as many of the side effects of the pharmaceuticals commonly used to treat the disease.

Much of what Willy knows he learned from his friend, Mark Tucci, a marijuana patient who lives in Manchester. Tucci, 49, has had MS for about 12 years and grows his own herb. Although the state registry is confidential, Tucci has met four or five other marijuana patients in Vermont, and occasionally advises them on proper growing and harvesting techniques. The Vermont law didn't create a legal means for patients to obtain marijuana seeds or plants. Basically, patients are on their own, and must buy what they need on the black market.

Tucci admits it was hard for him to visit Higgins -- it was like looking in the mirror and seeing himself from several years ago.

"I was like Shayne -- all stoned, ripped, narc-ed out, laying in a ball and sleeping all the time," Tucci says. "Don't get me wrong. I still have MS. But I don't have a catheter in me. I know what day it is. I'm raising a family. I'm getting out and doing stuff around the house. I couldn't do any of that before."

Unlike Higgins, Tucci speaks in a clear and coherent voice. He can walk -- albeit with a crutch -- and is raising two teenaged boys on his own, though he can no longer work. He's reduced his daily meds from 17 to three. And he credits most of those improvements to his use of medical marijuana.

Tucci smokes about five joints a day, or about 2 ounces each month. He's figured out which strain works best to control his muscle spasms and which one manages his pain. In fact, Tucci has nearly finished writing a guidebook for other medical marijuana patients in Vermont on how to grow medical cannabis.

Tucci asserts that Higgins could make comparable improvements if he were allowed to smoke every day instead of just once a week. "If that man could have a constant supply [of cannabinoids] in his body, you give him three or four months and you could wean him off all that other crap," he says. "That poor sonofabitch just lays in bed and suffers. Who can live like that?"


Rachael Parker, administrator of the Starr Farm Nursing Center, refused repeated requests by Seven Days to be interviewed for this story. However, shortly before press time she issued the following statement: "We care about our resident and will continue efforts to assist him in managing his health needs. However, we must abide by state and federal laws with regard to this matter."

Last August, after Burlington police seized Higgins' marijuana, the nursing home also refused comment but issued a statement to the press: "A registry representative informed us that because our facility receives federal funds, and federal law prohibits the possession and use of marijuana, its possession and use in our facility is against the law, and therefore is strictly prohibited."

But Department of Public Safety Commissioner Kerry Sleeper denies that his office or the registry was ever queried on this issue, or offered an opinion on whether a nursing home's federal funding could be compromised by a resident's medical marijuana use.

Senator Jim Leddy (D–Chittenden), who chairs the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, says that although DPS initially opposed the medical marijuana bill, Kerry has since made it "very clear" that his agency would not violate the spirit or intent of the law. While Leddy recognizes that the Burlington police officer was put in awkward position because he was told that a crime was being committed, "That's where the nursing home exercised exceptionally poor judgment.

"We did not anticipate, nor did we ever think, that state or federal drug agents would come in and raid an individual, let alone a nursing home, and bust them," Leddy continues. "How the nursing home is handling this appears to be somewhat irresponsible and, frankly, inhumane."

Jackie Majoros is director of Vermont's Long-Term Care Ombudsman Project, which is part of Vermont Legal Aid. She advocates for people who are homebound or living in nursing homes, residential homes or assisted-living facilities. Majoros asserts that Starr Farm is Higgins' legal residence and he should be allowed to use medical marijuana in the privacy of his own room.

"It's hard for us to believe that federal prosecutors would prosecute someone like Mr. Higgins, who's struggling to manage symptoms of a debilitating disease," Majoros says, "or that they would choose to prosecute the nursing home for allowing him to get that relief in his own home."

When this issue first arose last summer, Majoros says she tried to contact administrators at other federally funded facilities around the country to see how they handle this dilemma. She didn't get very far. "There wasn't a whole lot of willingness to talk about it," Majoros admits. "They're all doing it below the radar."

The divide between the states and the feds on medical marijuana use has only grown wider in the last year. In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that California's medical marijuana law, which was the first in the nation, does not protect cannabis patients, growers or distributors from prosecution under federal law. And in April, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a statement denying that there are any medical benefits whatsoever from using marijuana.

But there's been no evidence thus far that the feds are pursuing federally funded health-care facilities that condone medical cannabis use, according to Kris Hermes, legal campaign director of Americans for Safe Access. The Oakland, California-based nonprofit tracks legal issues on the medical marijuana front. In California, it's estimated that 200,000 people use cannabis for medicinal reasons.

Hermes says he's never heard of a nursing home being threatened with the loss of its federal funding or certification. Nevertheless, "There's a lot of fear out there," he says. This is particularly true among low-income patients who live in federally subsidized housing. Some landlords who accept Section 8 housing vouchers are also wary, fearing federal asset-forfeiture laws if they condone medical pot growing or distribution on their property.

"It's something that the federal government has the ability to scrutinize," Hermes adds. "The drug laws are extremely draconian about what conduct is acceptable in subsidized housing."

Back in Vermont, Higgins is in a "holding pattern," according to Majoros. The Vermont chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is researching his case and considering a lawsuit. According to Vermont ACLU director Allen Gilbert, plenty of case law covers the privacy rights of hospital patients, but very little addresses the privacy rights of nursing home residents.

In the meantime, Higgins says he'd be happy if Starr Farm just allowed him to smoke discreetly outside, the way other Starr Farm residents are allowed to smoke tobacco. But Higgins also says he'd prefer to move to another facility altogether, where, he says, he could get a shower more than once a week, the residents are closer to his own age, and the administration "isn't paranoid" about him smoking pot.

Still, Higgins' marijuana caregiver recognizes that moving him into another facility may not solve his problems. "We don't know that yet," Willy admits. "If they receive federal funding, we'll have to play this game all over again."

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Author to talk about growing medicinal marijuana

Postby palmspringsbum » Thu Jul 27, 2006 1:00 pm

The Vermont Guardian wrote:Author to talk about growing medicinal marijuana

The Vermont Guardian
July 27, 2006

BURLINGTON — A local author who offers tips on how to grow medicinal marijuana at home will be the featured speaker at Saturday’s annual meeting of the Vermont Chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Mark Tucci of Manchester, will be talking about his new book — Patients Simple Guide to Growing Marijuana — at the group’s noontime meeting at the Fletcher Free Library in Burlington.

Tucci was misdiagnosed in the early 1990's, then finally had his suspicions confirmed in 1996. After going through nearly every "doctor approved" treatment, drug, clinical trial and experimental therapy for his advanced progressive multiple sclerosis, Tucci started using cannabis as the main treatment for his pain, spasms, and general attitude, the group said in a press release.

Tucci has testified numerous times in front of various house and senate committees about "drug" issues and medical marijuana. He was appointed to the Vermont state task force that had been set up to study the reality of Vermont establishing a medical marijuana registry. He is currently working to get new legislation introduced in the next legislative session to expand the present number of plants allowed for patients in Vermont and the addition of a wider proven list of diseases covered under current Vermont law

Forced into "retirement" at age 39, this father of four, and grandfather of one, now almost 50, is an active member of his church, an involved parent in school matters, and tireless activist for harm reduction strategies and drug policy reform.

To find out more about his book, go to

<span class=postbold>See Also</span>: The Pot Prescription
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Rutland District 1-1 Old rivals square off for a third prima

Postby budman » Wed Aug 16, 2006 7:24 pm

The Rutland Herald wrote:Rutland District 1-1 Old rivals square off for a third primary race

August 16, 2006

By Gordon Dritschilo Herald Staff
The Rutland Herald

POULTNEY — Andrew Donaghy and Fred Maslack are squaring off for round three.

Donaghy, R-Poultney, is seeking a third term in the House of Representatives, but will first have to fend off a challenge from 47-year-old Maslack in the September primary. Donaghy, 64, represents Rutland District 1-1, made up of Poultney and part of Ira.

"We need a competent alternative to the incumbent we have," Maslack said. "He did nothing to deserve to run unopposed."

There is no challenger for the November election.

Maslack, a slate worker, served four terms in the Vermont House before retired New York police chief and restaurateur Donaghy, then a Democrat, unseated him in 2002 by a vote of 763-436.

Donaghy said he always had considered himself a Republican and, despite the fact that the Democrats recruited him to run against Maslack, he identified more with the positions of the Republican Party in Vermont. So, in 2004, Donaghy switched parties and ran as a Republican.

Maslack challenged Donaghy as an independent in 2004. Donaghy won again, though that race was closer, with a vote of 806-682.

Maslack said he is running again because he does not like unopposed elections and he believes a comparison of the men's records shows he was a better legislator than Donaghy, who he called a "nonperforming state employee."

"He is mouthing the words 'making Vermont more affordable,' but it's all lip service — no product," Maslack said.

Maslack said he had a simple way for voters to compare their accomplishments.

"You do a Google search on me, you'll get 10 pages of hits," he said. "Do a Google search on Andy, you'll see one hit and that's the Legislative directory saying he's a member."

A recent Google search for "Fred Maslack" turned up 575 hits. A number of those hits are from pro-marijuana groups, among whom Maslack gained fame for his sponsoring of medical marijuana and industrial hemp bills.

Another large concentration of hits discuss the bill Maslack introduced in 2000 that would have required all Vermonters of military-service age to own a gun or pay a $500 fine.

A search for "Andrew Donaghy" turned up 141 hits, although it was not until the second page any of them clearly were about a Vermont legislator.

Maslack went on to say he would be satisfied just to debate Donaghy.

"He has yet, in four years, to engage in debate with me or anyone else," Maslack said. "It's about time he made himself available for oral examination by his constituents and not run away to Long Island and hide somewhere when the opportunity presents itself."

Maslack also attacked Donaghy's attendance record, saying Donaghy missed a number of votes at the end of the session and arguing that shows Donaghy is not "engaged with the process."

Donaghy admitted he had missed votes to attend a family wedding, but said he was willing to match his roll call record against anyone else in the Legislature, including Maslack.

He also said he was surprised to hear Maslack accusing him of being unwilling to debate, and that he would be happy to face off in a public forum.

"I don't know why he would say that," Donaghy said. "I've never had any indication he wanted to debate or discuss anything."

Donaghy said he stood by his record.

"I was able to get hundreds of thousands of dollars for projects in Poultney like the Stonebridge Inn, the downtown renovation and the sidewalks and streetlights going in now," he said. I was able to help get some of that money having developed relationships with those decision-makers in Montpelier."

Donaghy also pointed to his ongoing effort to put in a new bus line from Poultney to Rutland, currently under review by the Vermont Agency of Transportation.

"That's critically important for Poultney," he said. "It would serve shoppers, seniors, commuters, students … some of the private industry along the way."

As to what each of them say they would do in the Legislature next term, Maslack said he would look at ways to cut government spending.

"Ultimately, personnel services translates to 80 percent of the budget," he said. "When there's no money there, I guess it comes down to people."

Donaghy said while he support's the governor's plan to offer scholarships to college students who will stay in Vermont after graduation, he said that needs to be paired with bringing in businesses.

"We may not be able to keep college students here if there aren't good jobs for them to take," he said. "I don't think it requires the Legislature to do that — just following the policy decisions of our administration."

Maslack said he has no plans to run as an independent should he lose the primary, although he did not rule it out. "Not on my own, no," he said. "If I was asked to, if someone said they had a petition, I might."

Donaghy said he would have to think about whether to run as an independent, but that he was confident he would win the primary.

"I have the state GOP, the governor and all the Republican legislators in Rutland County supporting me," he said. "I think I'm going to do pretty well in the primary."

Contact Gordon Dritschilo at

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Just say no to legalization

Postby palmspringsbum » Thu Dec 07, 2006 10:25 am

The Barre-Montpelier Times-Argus wrote:EDITORIAL

Just say no to legalization

The Barre-Montpelier Times-Argus
December 6, 2006

Robert Sand, Windsor County state's attorney, renewed a perennial debate last week when he suggested that the war on drugs has been a failure and that legalization and regulation of drug use ought to be considered.

Sand's statement brought a strong response from Public Safety Commissioner Kerry Sleeper, who said that protecting people from drugs was an important role for law enforcement.

The nation has a troubled history with drugs and drug enforcement, partly because of Americans' appetite for drugs and partly because of the political overreaction, bordering on hysteria, that evolved in response to widening drug use.

Sleeper is right in saying that legalization would make drugs more widely available and so would magnify the destructive effects of drug use. Yet the nation's attitude toward drugs has been distorted over the years by those seeking political gain by fostering fear. The term "war on drugs" is indicative of the overreaction that began with Presidents Nixon and Reagan, who set in motion a futile law-enforcement campaign that filled the jails with people more profitably handled through treatment programs or with the scaled-down sentences appropriate for minor offenses.

A book called "Smoke and Mirrors" by Dan Baum documents the wild excesses of law enforcement during the war on drugs and the inflated threat used to justify draconian police programs.

These excesses do not mean that legalization is the best response to drug abuse. Society will always have an element that thrives by exploiting people's weaknesses. Call it the gangster element. There will always be weaknesses, and there will always be gangsters. It is necessary to keep the gangster element in check, which means focusing law enforcement on the big-time exploiters of people and helping those who are being exploited get free of their vices.

Supporters of legalization argue that the gangster element would be cut out if drugs were legal. But some drugs will never be legal, and a black market in illegal drugs would be inevitable.

The growth of heroin use in Vermont in recent years has been an alarming trend. Heroin destroys lives, and the state has responded by arresting dealers and helping users find treatment. One of those treatments involves the use of methadone, a heroin substitute that is used as part of a medical treatment. This is a realistic and positive response to drug abuse.

Supporters of legalization note the irrational inconsistencies plaguing the nation's attitudes toward drugs. Alcohol and tobacco kill far more people than marijuana, cocaine or heroin, and yet they are legal. Prohibition of alcohol failed, and supporters of legalization say that prohibition of marijuana is also failing.

It probably is, except in the sense that keeping marijuana illegal discourages its use, which is a good thing. Ask any parent of teenagers, even those who know their kids are dabbling with marijuana, if they want marijuana more readily available, and the answer is probably no.

The damage caused by alcohol and tobacco suggests, not legalization of drugs, but containment of the damage that drugs do. We know that prohibition of alcohol and tobacco would be unworkable and undesirable, but gradually, we are containing their damage. The stigma against illegal drugs is helpful in containing the damage they do. The lines defining criminal vices are drawn in different places for different reasons, but those lines must be defended.

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Senators oversee crime and climate

Postby palmspringsbum » Wed Jan 17, 2007 1:18 am

The Bennington Banner wrote:Senators oversee crime and climate

NEAL GOSWAMI, Staff Writer
Bennington Banner
Article Launched: Tuesday, January 9, 2007

BENNINGTON — The county's Democratic state Sens. Dick Sears and Robert Hartwell say they will be serving on committees that allow them to focus on issues such as domestic violence and climate change.

Committee assignments for senators were announced Friday by the three-person Committee on Committees. Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin, D-Windham, Sen. Dick Mazza, D- Grand Isle and Republican Lt. Governor Brian Dubie make up the group that names committees.

As expected, Sears, with 14 years of tenure in the Senate, will remain as chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He will also serve on the powerful Appropriations Committee. Hartwell, serving his first term in the Senate, will serve on two committees; Natural Resources and Energy, and Institutions.

Domestic violence, which is a problem throughout the state but more so in Bennington County, said Sears, will be his top priority for the current biennium and will steer his committee in a direction to address that issue.

"It's going to be the focus for a two year period, I think. We've done an awful lot in the field — trying to do something with domestic violence in the past four years," he said. "I want to spend some real time looking at where the holes are; and particularly, kids who grow up in homes with domestic violence."

Sears said he will need to work closely with the Senate Appropriations Committee to "address the cyclical nature of (the problem)."

Sears will also look to emphasize the use of DNA in combating wrongful convictions. Sears has sponsored a bill that allows defendants to have any physical evidence collected at the scene of a crime tested. In addition, the bill proposes a new independent commission to oversee DNA testing within the state.

The Judiciary Committee will be looking to continue to refine the sex offender registry and ensuring that sex offenders receive treatment before their release. According to Sears, many offenders finish up their sentences without ever receiving treatment.

"We kind of dealt with that group last year in the sex offender bill, but there are still people not treated. The governor identified that and I plan to do some more work on that," said Sears.

Sears says his committee will also look to reform medical marijuana laws in the state. Another bill introduced by Sears and three other senators is designed to increase the amount that approved patients can legally carry for medical marijuana use.

"Some users have told us that they still have to go out into the black market to buy it because they can't grow enough for their use," said Sears.

The bill, which also looks to expand the number of approved medical conditions that would qualify for medical marijuana use, will begin review in the committee on Wednesday. Sears said he would like to have it out of committee and on the Senate floor in the next two weeks.

Climate change priority

Hartwell will hear testimony from experts on climate change as a member of the Natural Resources Committee.

"Peter Shumlin has identified climate change as his number one priority and I agree with him. Climate change is affecting Vermont and Bennington County. ... I think it's an extremely important committee and an extremely important issue," he said.

The committee will begin hearing testimony Wednesday from Bill McKibben, an author and professor at Middlebury College, and Dr. Alan K. Betts, president of the Vermont Academy of Science and Engineering, on the urgency of addressing climate change.

McKibben led a five-day walk across Vermont last summer to demand action on global warming.

Hartwell will be able to help make decisions and influence which projects are addressed as a member of the Institutions Committee, he said.

"All of the building issues — the public buildings — goes through Institutions. We have a number of issues in Bennington County; the state office building, the geo-thermal project at the Veterans' Home, the welcome center, that will need to be addressed. This was a committee that I had asked to serve on because of those issues," said Hartwell.

Despite a dominant Democratic majority in the Senate, two of the seven Republicans in the body will head up a committee. Sen. Phil Scott, R-Washington, will serve as chairman of the Institutions Committee. Sen. Vincent Illuzzi, R-Essex, will remain chairman of the Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs Committee.

Speaker of the House Gaye Symington is expected to announce committee assignments for House members Tuesday morning.

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Patients argue for expansion of medical marijuana law

Postby palmspringsbum » Wed Jan 17, 2007 4:46 am

The Burlington Free Press wrote:Patients argue for expansion of medical marijuana law

By Nancy Remsen
Free Press Staff Writer
The Burlington Free Press

January 12, 2007

MONTPELIER -- Steve Perry of Randolph Center described the squeezing pain he feels in his legs, electric shock-like sensations when he turns his neck the wrong way, and crippling muscle spasms.

He takes narcotic pain- killers, he told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, but explained he gets the best relief when he also smokes marijuana -- an illegal drug.

"If I had multiple sclerosis, I could qualify under the law and use marijuana to treat my severe muscle spasms and pain," Perry said. He was referring to a 2004 law that exempts Vermonters with certain debilitating conditions from state penalties if they register with the Department of Public Safety and follow rules for growing and using marijuana for medical treatment. Possession and use of marijuana remains a federal crime.

Perry's diagnosis is degenerative joint disease, which wasn't included as an eligible condition under Vermont's law. "Because the law doesn't allow me to legally use or obtain marijuana, I have to put myself at risk of being arrested and going to jail every time I need to ease the pain."

Senate Judiciary Chairman Richard Sears, D-Bennington, has introduced a bill that would expand the list of diseases and conditions that would qualify someone for the state's legal protection for therapeutic use of marijuana, allow registered participants to grow more plants, and decrease by half the current $100 registration fee.

Perry urged lawmakers, as they consider these changes, to remember people like him who don't have life-threatening diseases, but still struggle with chronic, debilitating pain. "We don't deserve to be treated like criminals."

Vermont's 2-year-old Medical Marijuana Registry program has worked smoothly, reported Max Schlueter, director of the Vermont Crime Information Center. Twenty-nine people are registered, down from a high of 34. Sixteen have multiple sclerosis.

Despite smooth operations, Public Safety Commissioner Kerry Sleeper urged the committee to be cautious about expanding eligibility or allowing more plants. Noting a recent increase in substance abuse problems across the state, Sleeper said he didn't want lawmakers to do anything that would exacerbate this criminal activity.

Jane Woodruff, executive director of the Department of State's Attorneys and Sheriffs, warned that increasing the number of plants could make participants' homes targets for criminals. "I would ask you to take that very seriously."

The most emotional opponent of the proposed expansion was not scheduled to address the committee until next week, but he sat anxiously through the first two days of testimony.

Steve Steiner of Tioga Center, N.Y., said he lost his son to a drug overdose six years ago. Although prescription drugs killed his boy, Steiner said, "marijuana played a role. It opened the door."

To channel his grief, Steiner founded Americans for Drug Free Youth and Dads and Mad Mothers Against Drugs. He travels the country trying to block enactment of laws that provide legal protections to any kind of marijuana use.

Steiner charges that the Marijuana Policy Project, a national group that has promoted medical marijuana bills in states including Vermont, wants to legalize marijuana.

"I've seen how they parade sick and dying patients before legislatures," Steiner said. He said of his own group, "We aren't trying to hurt these sick and dying patients, but we want good medicine. What is being sold to Vermonters is snake oil."

Mark Tucci of Manchester has visited the Statehouse many times to lobby for protections for people like himself. He has multiple sclerosis and smokes several times a day to ease muscle spasms and pain. "I know it works," he told lawmakers Thursday.

Tucci, a registered medical marijuana user, argued that the current plant limits result in an inadequate supply of marijuana. "I smoke roughly 2 ounces a month. At present, I can grow two ounces in a three-to-four month period, which means two-thirds of my meds have to be bought on the black market."

"I'm getting sick of going out to try to find the stuff," added Tucci, who walks unsteadily with a crutch. Having friends buy his supply puts them at risk.

Regardless of who buys the marijuana, he noted, it costs $400 or more per ounce, which comes out of his monthly $850 disability check. "The way to end all this is to let me grow enough."

Contact Nancy Remsen at

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Sears: Allow sick to grow more pot

Postby palmspringsbum » Wed Jan 17, 2007 4:52 am

The Bennington Banner wrote:Sears: Allow sick to grow more pot

NEAL GOSWAMI, Staff Writer
Bennington Banner
Article Launched: 01/12/2007 03:01:28 AM EST

BENNINGTON — A Manchester resident testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday in support of a new medical marijuana bill.

<span class=postbold>Local man testifies</span>

Mark Tucci, 49, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, told the committee the state should revise a law passed in 2004 to allow approved patients to grow more marijuana for medical use. Tucci's testimony Thursday was in support of S.07, a bill proposed by Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, last month.

"A lot of people have asked me why I've introduced this bill, and Mark is the reason. ... That's the way legislation works in Vermont because we're a small state and you really do hear from your constituents," said Sears.

The bill seeks to raise the amount of marijuana a registered patient can possess to six mature plants, 18 immature plants and four ounces of usable marijuana. Current law allows for one mature plant, two immature plants and two ounces of usable marijuana. In addition, the registration fee for patients would be reduced from $100 to $50.

Sears' bill also expands the number of conditions that would qualify for medical marijuana. In addition to ailments such as cancer, AIDS and multiple sclerosis, the bill would allow for patients with glaucoma, cachexia, wasting syndrome and severe pain, nausea or seizures.

Vermont, one of 11 states that allow medical marijuana use, currently has 33 registered patients.

Tucci said when Vermont became the 10th state to pass a medical marijuana law in 2004, it essentially became a clinical trial for those three diseases. He believes the law has been beneficial and was a good starting point.

"Overall ... the program works. A very small group of the sickest Vermonters with AIDS, cancer and multiple sclerosis now have a very important tool to help them where nothing else seemed to or where the side effects from the real drugs were too debilitating to handle," he said.

However, it is time the state expand the law to allow patients to grow more, said Tucci. He said the plants he is allowed to grow often die or do not yield a sufficient amount of marijuana, causing Tucci to spend $400 to $500 dollars of his $850 monthly disability check purchasing marijuana on the black market.

"I smoke roughly two ounces a month. At present, I can grow about two ounces in a three to four-month period. That means two thirds of my meds have to be bought on the black market. ... The unknown strain and unknown growing conditions pretty much guarantee that the quality won't be the same," Tucci told the committee.

By purchasing marijuana on the street, Tucci said he is unintentionally encouraging recreational use of the drug. He said Sears' law could change that.

"By going out into the black market, I'm breaking the laws that our officers are sworn to uphold. ... The way to end all this is to let me grow enough medicine."

Tucci's testimony details the need for the bill, said Sears.

"Mark makes such a great case. He has to go out and pay ... for good marijuana that will do the same thing as what he grows," said Sears.

Law enforcement officials and the state's attorneys association will likely oppose changes to the current law, said Sears.

"They feel it's working fine. Basically, the opposition from law enforcement and other groups is, number one, the amounts; and number two, what diseases should be covered under the law," he said.

Tucci said the reasoning behind the opposition no longer makes sense.

"My big question with that is, 'why?' The concerns they have now are the same concerns they had two years ago. The sky didn't fall," he said.

Tucci said he has spoken with his two sons about his use of medical marijuana, and they are able to understand the difference between medication and recreational use.

"It's pretty cut and dry. ... to them, it's no real excitement. It's not a drug, it's a medicine."

Sears said he hopes to have the bill through the Judicial Committee within a week. The bill must then pass through the Heath and Welfare Committee before it reaches the Senate floor.

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Medical Marijuana bill aims to change conditions

Postby palmspringsbum » Wed Jan 17, 2007 3:32 pm

The Manchester Journal wrote:Medical Marijuana bill aims to change conditions
The Manchester Journal
Article Launched: 01/12/2007 10:57:57 AM EST

<table class=posttable align=right width=300><tr><td class=postcell><img class=postimg src=bin/tucci-mark.jpg></td></tr></table>
Friday, January 12

Brandon Canevari


MANCHESTER - Vermont State Senators Richard Sears (D - Bennington), John F. Campbell (D - Windsor), Ed Flanagan (D - Chittenden) and Jeanette K. White (D - Windham) have introduced a bill, which if passed, will not only alter the conditions under which people may use medicinal marijuana, but also the amount they may possess.

Under the old law, medicinal marijuana could be prescribed for cancer or AIDS patients who were at the end of their life. The law also stipulated that cancer, AIDS, HIV positive and multiple sclerosis patients may receive medicinal marijuana if other efforts to treat the ailment had been made and the disease, condition or its treatment were still causing significant pain.

The new rule proposed in the bill would allow cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, HIV positive, and AIDS patients to receive medicinal marijuana. Also, if the symptoms resulting from the treatment of any one of these conditions became "severe, persistent and intractable," then a doctor may prescribe marijuana. In addition, the bill also states that a person with "a life-threatening, progressive, and debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces severe, persistent, and intractable symptoms ..." would be eligible to have marijuana prescribed to them by a doctor.

Sears said it is the "life threatening" portion of the bill that he expects to be closely scrutinized - saying he wondered if a person necessarily had to have a life threatening condition to be eligible to have medicinal marijuana prescribed to them.

The biggest change to the bill is the amount of medical marijuana that a person may possess. The current law states that a person and their caregiver may collectively possess one mature marijuana plant, two immature plants, and two ounces of usable marijuana. The new bill seeks to increase the amount a patient and their caregiver can possess. If passed, a patient and their caregiver may possess six mature plants, 18 immature plants and four ounces of usable marijuana.

Sears said the reason he wants to increase the amount of medical marijuana people are allowed to possess is because of the testimony he has received from people, such as Mark Tucci, of Manchester, who has multiple sclerosis, one of the afflictions that qualifies as a life threatening illness.

"When I found out that Mark still had to go out on the black market to get the drugs he needed for the relief of his symptoms, that had a huge impact on me," said Sears. "The amount of marijuana that can be possessed is very problematic if you're forcing people who are on the registry to find other methods."

Tucci smokes multiple times a day to help alleviate the pain of multiple sclerosis. In a month, Tucci said he consumes two ounces of marijuana. Because of the current law, he said he is forced to get two-thirds of his medicine on the black market - at a significant personal expense. He said the cost for him to grow a plant was about $25 to $30. However, the cost of an ounce of marijuana on the black market is at least $400. In addition, Tucci said the quality of the product is inferior to the kind he has grown for him.

"The specific strains we have, one works better on pain, one works better on spasms," Tucci said.

Tucci hopes that when the bill comes before legislators they will not be hesitant in signing it. In fact, he believes there is only one reason why the bill will not be signed into law.

"The only reason is the law enforcement issue. Law enforcement is going to do their job and say there is more drugs out on the street," he said. "But the reality is one, kids can get pot easier than cigarettes and booze. Two, law enforcement has better things to do than go around chasing pot heads and three, and this is most important, is the gateway theory has been rebuked by science for years. ... UCLA proved that there was no proof that it caused lung cancer."

"So if you don't have the drug problem, you don't have the gateway theory and you don't have the health theory, what is the problem?" Tucci added.

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Vermont's medical marijuana law before Senate for expansion

Postby palmspringsbum » Fri Jan 19, 2007 2:34 pm

The Burlington Free Press wrote:Senate Judiciary Committee recommends expanding Vermont's medical marijuana law

January 19, 2007
The Burlington Free Press

The Senate Judiciary Committee recommended today modifications to the state’s existing medical marijuana law.

The changes would included expanding eligibility, allowing out-of-state doctors to decide patient eligibility, allowing more plants and cutting the annual registration fee.

The bill goes to the Senate Health and Welfare Committee before it makes its way before the full Senate.

Find full coverage on this story in Saturday's Free Press.

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Senate looks to expand Rx marijuana bill

Postby palmspringsbum » Sat Jan 20, 2007 4:03 pm

The Barre-Montpelier Times-Argus wrote:Senate looks to expand Rx marijuana bill

January 20, 2007

By Louis Porter Vermont Press Bureau
The Times-Argus

MONTPELIER – After 1996, when he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis after two years of symptoms, Mark Tucci of Manchester began taking a bunch of heavy duty medications.

But those medications came with their own problems and side effects.

Then he began smoking marijuana. Tucci says his use of the drug has helped him to cut in half the number of prescription medicines he takes, and his illness is not progressing as rapidly as was expected. He has written a book for patients growing marijuana.

"Not only does smoking slow down the degenerative progress of my disease, you can see that, but I don't have to take the 17 narcotics I did have to take," Tucci, 50, said by telephone Friday.

He spoke the same day the state Senate Judiciary Committee voted 4-1 to advance a bill expanding the state's medical marijuana statute, which became law in 2004.

The concerns of law enforcement officials helped persuade members of the committee to stop short of giving advocates for medical marijuana everything they wanted, said Sen. Richard Sears, D-Bennington, the committee chairman. Police and prosecution officials testified earlier this month that there was a chance changing the law could contribute to an increase in drug crimes, or that patients might be targeted for theft.

"We listened to law enforcement and their concerns," Sears said.

The bill, which now moves to the Health and Welfare Committee in the Senate, would expand Vermont's marijuana program significantly.

If it becomes law, sufferers of chronic illnesses that are progressive and debilitating – but not life-threatening – will be able to legally possess and grow limited amounts of the drug. In the past, access was restricted to deadly diseases like cancer, AIDs and multiple sclerosis.

Patients would be able to have four mature marijuana plants and 10 immature plants, as long as they registered the plants with state police and had the approval of their doctors.

However, patients still would be restricted to possessing two ounces of marijuana. And strict rules about how the drugs are grown, and requirements about registration by patients, would remain in place, lawmakers said.

"The testimony we received was that it was working well for the people already on the registry," Sears said.

So far, Vermont's law has not run afoul of federal authorities. Vermont's law protects patients from prosecution by state and local authorities, but not under federal drug laws.

However, Vermont's medical marijuana law is significantly more restrictive than those in other states, like California, where federal authorities have stepped in to enforce U.S. laws, Sears said.

"We still believe that is unlikely to happen in Vermont," Sears said.

He said it's important for Vermont to expand the list of ill patients who are eligible for medical use of the drug, and to increase the number of plants patients can grow for their own use. Otherwise, patients — whose diseases may have weakened them financially as well as physically — may be purchasing them much more expensively on the black market.

"Some of these people are just struggling to get by," Sears said.

Sen. Alice Nitka, D-Windsor, voted against the bill in the Judiciary Committee.

"I certainly have sympathy for the people who are not included in the current law," she said. But "it's not something I was comfortable with."

In part, there was too much conflicting testimony about how much of the drug could be collected from plants grown indoors, as Vermont's law requires, Nitka said.

"There was a very wide range, too wide for me," Nitka said.

Adam Necrason, a lobbyist and lawyer for the Marijuana Policy Project, said that while advocates did not get everything they wanted, the bill is a step in the right direction

"This bill marks a major step forward in Vermont's medical marijuana program," he said. "While not perfect, S.7 will extend protection to many patients who suffer terribly but have no protection under our current law. The Legislature and governor should pass this measure without delay."

Sears said he expects the bill to receive broad support in the Senate. He is hopeful it can help people like the elderly man he spoke to recently who suffers terribly from shingles.

As for Tucci, he wishes the committee had gone further toward adopting his and other advocates' recommendations for allowing patients to grow more plants and possess more marijuana. He vividly remembers the difference using marijuana medicinally made in his life — especially when he was able to get rid of some of the side effects of his other prescriptions.

"My God, I didn't feel like I was going to throw up anymore," he said. "My disease is progressing, there is no doubt about it," Tucci said. But "I can get rid of most of my pain and most of my spasms … It's about quality of life."

Contact Louis Porter at

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Panel approves expansion of medical marijuana program

Postby palmspringsbum » Sat Jan 20, 2007 4:31 pm

The Burlington Free Press wrote:Panel approves expansion of medical marijuana program

By Nancy Remsen
Free Press Staff Writer
The Burlington Free Press

January 20, 2007

MONTPELIER -- More Vermonters would have the option of using marijuana to treat severe, persistent and debilitating symptoms that have failed to respond to other medical treatments under a bill approved Friday by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The bill, recommended on a 4-1 vote, would expand eligibility beyond the limits set now in Vermont's two-year-old law, which restricts participation to people with cancer, multiple sclerosis or AIDS.

Under the Judiciary proposal, individuals with any chronic, progressive and debilitating condition that produces severe and persistent wasting syndrome, pain, nausea or seizures could seek protection from state prosecution for using marijuana to feel better. The proposal requires prospective participants to have tried traditional medical treatment first to relieve symptoms before turning to marijuana.

"We aren't legalizing marijuana," said Sen. John Campbell, D-Windsor, one of the bill's sponsors. "You have to look at this from a compassionate perspective," he explained. "Someone suffering from such devastating illnesses as we address in this, they should be able to use a substance that will alleviate their symptoms."

The bill also would allow people registered with the Medical Marijuana Program in the Vermont Department of Public Safety to grow more marijuana plants than the current law allows. The bill would permit four mature plants and 10 immature plants, up from one mature and two immature plants.

Participants would pay less to register, too. The current fee is $100 a year, but would drop to $50 if the bill became law.

Finally, the committee agreed that doctors outside Vermont could certify that individuals applying to the medical marijuana registry have the specified illnesses or intractable symptoms. The existing restriction -- Vermont doctors only -- created problems for Vermonters who see physicians in other states, which is common in some border communities.

Sen. Alice Nitka, D-Windsor, was the lone opponent of the changes. "It's the expansion of the diseases," she explained. "It seems too unstructured to me."

Nitka also worried about allowing participants to grow more plants, noting the committee heard conflicting testimony. "There seemed to be discrepancies in the amount of marijuana produced from a plant grown indoors."

The bill moves next to the Senate Health and Welfare Committee where advocates will push to further expand eligibility to include individuals with glaucoma.
Contact Nancy Remsen at

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Vermont Bill to Expand Therapeutic Use of Cannabis Advances

Postby palmspringsbum » Mon Jan 29, 2007 10:15 pm

The Drug War Chronicle wrote:Medical Marijuana: Vermont Bill to Expand Therapeutic Use of Cannabis Advances

from Drug War Chronicle, Issue #470, 1/26/07

A bill that would significantly expand Vermont's two-year-old medical marijuana program passed its first legislative hurdle last Friday as members of the state Senate Judiciary Committee voted 4-1 to advance it. The bill, S. 7, has now been referred to the Senate Health and Welfare Committee.

<table class=posttable align=right width=300><tr><td class=postcell><img class=postimg src=bin/vermont.jpg></td></tr><tr><td class=postcap align=center>springtime in Vermont for patients?</td></tr></table>Under Vermont's current law, legal access to medical marijuana is limited to people suffering from cancer, HIV/AIDS, and multiple sclerosis. The new bill would expand that list to include any "life threatening, progressive, and debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces severe, persistent, and intractable symptoms such as: cachexia or wasting syndrome; severe pain; severe nausea; or seizures."

But committee members heeded the fears of law enforcement officials, who testified earlier this month that broadening the law could lead to more drug crimes or more patients being targeted for theft. As introduced, the bill would have increased the number of plants patients or caregivers can grow from one mature plant to six and from two immature plants to 18. The amount of usable marijuana they could legally possess would have increased from one ounce to four. After pondering law enforcement concerns, the committee compromised. Under the language approved by the committee, patients would be allowed up to four mature plants and 10 immature ones. The amount of usable marijuana they could possess will be two ounces.

The bill will also allow patients to use recommendations from doctors outside the state. Current law restricts patients to in-state doctors. Finally, the bill would cut registration fees in half, from $100 to $50.

"We aren't legalizing marijuana," said Sen. John Campbell (D-Windsor), one of the bill's sponsors. "You have to look at this from a compassionate perspective," he explained. "Someone suffering from such devastating illnesses as we address in this, they should be able to use a substance that will alleviate their symptoms."

The Marijuana Policy Project is working the corridors in Montpelier. MPP lobbyist Adam Necrason told the Vermont Press Bureau that even with the modifications, the bill was a step in the right direction. "This bill marks a major step forward in Vermont's medical marijuana program," he said. "While not perfect, S. 7 will extend protection to many patients who suffer terribly but have no protection under our current law. The legislature and governor should pass this measure without delay."

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Pot Fears Unfounded

Postby palmspringsbum » Fri Dec 14, 2007 11:41 pm

WCAX TV wrote:Pot Fears Unfounded

by Brian Joyce, WCAX TV (Burlington, VT)
October 18th, 2007

A little more than three years ago Vermont became the thirteenth state to enact a medical marijuana law despite strong opposition from law enforcement. The police predicted the law that permits physicians to prescribe pot as a pain-killer was just a pretext to legalize marijuana for everyone. Today a top cop acknowledged those predictions have been wrong.

"At this point, four years into this, we're comfortable with what's happening and we believe that the people who are getting it are getting it under the true color of what the law is," said Col. James Baker of the Vermont State Police.

These days State Police Commander Jim Baker is comfortable with Vermont's medical marijuana law -- but it wasn't always that way.

Continued Baker: "The law enforcement community in general had serious reservations about medical marijuana cause we've seen in other states where that was nothing but a front for legalization of marijuana."

States like California where 60 Minutes last month documented how easy it is to get a doctor's prescription for marijuana.

Said Morley Safer of CBS' 60 Minutes: "Many businesses calling themselves dispensaries or cannabis clubs advertise in alternative papers as do doctors around the state who give you a quick once over and for a price a permit to buy."

But in Vermont, that is not the case.

"I haven't seen what I believe to be any abuses thus far," said Sheri Englert of the Vermont Marijuana Registry.

Sheri Englert oversees Vermont's Medical Marijuana Registry. She and other officials determine who will get a permit for marijuana precriptions for pain relief. Vermont's conditions are far more strict than California. For example, marijuana must be a last resort certified to be more effective than other pain killers by a doctor -- and not just any doctor.

Continued Englert: "A patient has to have a bona fide relationship with a doctor for at least six months."

As of today, 53 patients are registered -- a number that increased more than 40% since lawmakers eased eligibility requirements three months ago.

"The conditions, the treatments of the conditions, the disease that the patients have are, it's heart-wrenching. It really is," concluded Englert.

Getting a permit to use marijuana does not guarantee the patients will actually get the marijuana they are permitted to use. While it means they can not be prosecuted for possessing marijuana under state law, possessing pot is still a federal crime...but the feds admit they don't generally prosecute small users.

Brian Joyce - WCAX News
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My Turn: It's time to decriminalize marijuana

Postby palmspringsbum » Sun Jan 06, 2008 9:20 pm

The Burlington Free Press wrote:My Turn: It's time to decriminalize marijuana

The Burlington Free Press
By Ken Freer

January 4, 2008

We lost the so called "War on Drugs" a long time ago and it's time to introduce a little common sense. Gov. Jim Douglas' spat with Windsor County prosecutor Robert Sand brought this issue to our attention just recently. I think that the Vermont Lottery does more harm to Vermont citizens than smoking marijuana. The Lottery Commissioner always shouts, "Please play responsibly!" while he and his staff are dreaming up more games to fleece those people who can least afford to lose the money.

Now the governor is talking about leasing the lottery to a private business that will probably further abuse our citizens. The money realized from the proposed lease would be used to help fund our public education program and maybe reduce taxes. Why not get rid of the lottery and find another, more responsible, way to raise money to support the education of our children?

The Vermont prison population continues to grow even though we have farmed out inmates to other locations. Corrections officials, the Legislature and the administration say they are now very concerned. They should be, and maybe they should take some time to find out how many "criminals" they have incarcerated because they were in possession of "significant" amounts of marijuana.

Enforcement officials hold press conferences around here if they seize a few pounds of marijuana. Is that really a significant amount, and should it be enough to send someone to jail when our correctional institutions are bursting at the seams? What is the recidivism rate for those marijuana violators that we have incarcerated? We probably don't have answers for those questions or many others that could be posed. The point is that we need to reconsider our law enforcement stance on marijuana as part of any larger study that we appear poised to do on the ever-increasing Vermont prison population.

There is no argument that Vermont is one of the most heavily taxed states in the country. Despite this, our roads are in horrible shape, we never seem to have enough money for education and the corrections system is bleeding us dry. So where do we go for help? If an adult could legally buy enough marijuana and the paper to roll a cigarette at one of the local convenience stores, would that be the end of the world? I don't think so. The state could tax the hell out of that transaction in order to help pay for our roads and fund our schools. We could probably stop stealing money from people with the Vermont Lottery. Marijuana arrests, related criminal activity and incarceration would decline. Oh, and if someone with a medical condition who could benefit from smoking an occasional joint were able to use some marijuana without feeling like a criminal, that would be nice, too.

We passed the civil unions law in Vermont and the sky didn't fall. Gay marriage doesn't look like it is far behind and the sky still hasn't fallen. Incredibly, we sold and gave up control of Vermont Yankee to a private company and just lately seem "concerned" about some safety issues, including the long-term storage of nuclear waste on the banks of the Connecticut River. I wonder if the sky might fall on that decision?

However, if we allow the same person who can now legally buy a six-pack of beer, a carton of cigarettes or a bunch of lottery tickets at Cumberland Farms to also purchase a personal-use supply of marijuana, the sky will not even notice. After a few months, I don't think anyone will notice except law enforcement, the Corrections Department, the state treasurer and maybe the lottery commissioner.

Ken Freer lives in Morrisville.
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Legalize, regulate marijuana use

Postby palmspringsbum » Fri Jan 11, 2008 1:48 pm

The Burlington Free Press wrote:<span class=postbold>OPINION</span>

Legalize, regulate
marijuana use

The Burlington Free Press
January 10, 2008

It is not the time to merely decriminalize marijuana, but to legalize and regulate marijuana. While marijuana is intoxicating, it is less so than alcohol. Yes, it is harmful and addictive, but less so than tobacco. And unlike tobacco or alcohol the medical community recognizes therapeutic properties of the substance.

I have a feeling it is more about the money and who stands to lose. Could it be the tobacco, liquor and pharmaceutical industries? How about law enforcement and prison guard unions? Tobacco and liquor are certainly lucrative to taxing bodies and unlike marijuana, are hard to produce.

I always find it interesting that when someone gets caught cultivating a crop of marijuana for profit the cash value of that crop is reported and not the number of doses it represents.

Essex Junction

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Yankee pot eater shows remorse

Postby palmspringsbum » Sun Feb 10, 2008 6:19 pm

The Rutland Herald Online wrote:
Yankee pot eater shows remorse

The Rutland Herald Online
February 5, 2008

By Susan Smallheer Herald Staff

BRATTLEBORO — The control room operator at Vermont Yankee who said he accidentally ate two pot-laced brownies at a party last summer told federal regulators that he wasn't feeling the effects of the drug when he returned to work a few days later, according to documents released by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Monday.

But Jonathan Picard of Brattleboro, the control room operator, said he now realizes he made a bad mistake when he didn't immediately notify Entergy Nuclear that he had ingested the drug, accidentally or not.

According to Picard's own report, he had refused to smoke a marijuana cigarette with other people at the gathering on July 1, and people asked him why, since he had already eaten the brownies.

He said he chose not to drive home that night and returned home the next day.

"I returned to work on July 4, 2007, not feeling any effects from the drug and performed licensed duties for the first time since returning to work. I committed a serious error in judgment in making this decision to return to work. Knowing I had ingested an illegal substance, I should have informed my employer prior to returning to work.

"Although I did not feel I was physically or mentally impaired, returning to work and performing licensed duties resulted in a violation of federal regulations," Picard wrote.

Picard was immediately suspended after he tested positive for marijuana use in July, about two weeks after he ingested the brownies.

Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the NRC, said Picard had requested that his response to his violation remain confidential, but the NRC had rejected his request. The agency had agreed to redact the most sensitive parts of his response regarding his medical and counseling information.

While parts of the four-page report Picard filed with the NRC in late December were redacted because of privacy issues, it was clear that Picard had gone through some kind of treatment program.

Picard is trying to keep his job at Entergy Nuclear, where he has worked for several years, but was only licensed as a control room operator for about a month when the incident took place.

Whether Picard has regained his old job remained a secret, however, as Entergy Nuclear spokesman Robert Williams refused to say whether Picard was still employed by Entergy. Williams said that it was a private personnel matter.

About two weeks ago, Williams said that Picard, while not back in the reactor's control room, was working at the corporate headquarters' training facility.

According to Picard's report to the NRC, he had become a NRC licensed control room operator in June 2007, a month before the incident occurred, although he had worked at Vermont Yankee for about 11 years prior to that, first as a chemistry technician and later as an auxiliary operator. Picard said he had an "exemplary work history" and that the positive test for pot "was an isolated incident."

Picard mentioned repeatedly in his letter that he should have told his supervisor immediately about the accidental drug use.

Williams said, in general, if someone reports him or herself to the plant personnel for illegal drug use, it would still mean the person would be suspended from access to the plant pending an investigation and a "fitness for duty" evaluation.

During such an evaluation, he said, "all the circumstances would be taken into consideration," such as the accidental eating of the marijuana brownies.

As part of his agreement with the NRC, Picard agreed to avoid any such gatherings or parties where illegal drug use may occur, and in the "highly unlikely event" that he finds himself at such a gathering, he will immediately leave.

Picard noted that he had changed his behavior and no longer associates with people who use illegal drugs.

"I have since changed my behavior and do not associate with any person or situations where illegal substances are kept or used," Picard wrote.

Contact Susan Smallheer at

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