VT House Approves Medicinal Marijuana Legislation

03/15/02 12:00AM By Bob Kinzel



(Host) After a second day of extended debate, the House this afternoon gave its final approval to legislation that will allow doctors to prescribe marijuana to patients with terminal or chronic illnesses.

The House did support an effort to have the bill expire in 2006 - a move that will require a future Legislature to revisit this issue.

VPR's Bob Kinzel reports.


(Kinzel) The legislation created one of the most emotional debates of the session in the House.

Many members rose to tell personal stories of loved ones or close friends who benefited from using marijuana in the final days of their lives.

But opponents expressed concern about the message that the bill would send to young people around the state.

On Friday, the House made two changes to the bill. The first calls for a thorough study of the effectiveness of the bill after four years.

The second requires the legislation to sunset in 2006 - that's an action that will force supporters to reintroduce the measure at that time to keep the law in place.

Pownal Rep. Alan Palmer describes himself as a person who strongly opposes the use of marijuana as a recreational drug but he views the medicinal use of marijuana in a very different light:

(Palmer) We've had the opportunity to hear all the arguments here. We've been voting on it. Vote your heart, vote your conscience, vote whatever you want, but please remember why we are doing this. There are a lot of people out there who don't have the option to say I don't want to suffer anymore, and we're offering them the opportunity to have a little bit of relief. It's real easy to say that I won't do it if I had the opportunity. Maybe you would and maybe you wouldn't, but you won't know until that time comes.

(Kinzel) But Barre Town Rep. Henry Gray said the bill was the first step in the effort to legalize marijuana in Vermont:

(Gray) This is not just for medicinal uses. I think they want this bill passed so that they can use it for recreational purposes, Mr. Speaker¿There are some in this House that want - or some people in this area - that want pot on every table.

(Kinzel) The bill now goes over to the Senate for its consideration. Governor Howard Dean says he hopes to convince members of the Senate to kill the legislation.

For Vermont Public Radio I'm Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.
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