VERMONT SENATE PASSES MEDICAL MARIJUANA BILL


 From: MPPupdates@mpp.org
          Date: Thu, 13 Mar 2003

Dear Friend,

After an intensive lobbying campaign and three committee victories in Vermont this year, the Vermont Senate passed the Marijuana Policy Project's medical marijuana bill by a convincing 22-7 vote today.  If enacted, the bill would allow patients and their caregivers to possess and grow marijuana without the fear of arrest.

The bill now moves to the Republican-controlled House, which passed a nearly identical bill last year by a vote of 82-59. We expect the House to pass the Senate bill next month, which will place a great deal of pressure on newly elected Gov. Jim Douglas (R) to sign the bill.

During the 2002 legislative session, MPP invested $74,800 in Vermont, which nearly achieved victory for us, but a last-minute compromise instead resulted in the enactment of a medical marijuana taskforce bill. Then, this past fall, MPP spent $20,000working with the task force, which produced a report in January urging the state government to pass the bill that is now moving through the legislature.

This year, MPP spent $50,000 to retain two lobbying firms that are coordinating the legislature's committee hearings, our grassroots lobbying, and the direct lobbying of state legislators in the Capitol.

The final piece of the puzzle is to run TV ads in Vermont to pressure Gov. Douglas to sign the bill that everyone expects the House to pass.  Pressuring him now will make it less likely that he will coordinate with his Republican friends in the House to table our bill. In the next month, we want to run $20,000 worth of TV ads that depict a doctor attending to a patient, a reference to the 76%public support for medical marijuana in Vermont, and a call to the governor to sign the bill.

(Please see our news release below for the governor's conflicting views on medical marijuana.) 

If you would like to help pay for the TV ad campaign that will be instrumental in staving off a veto of our bill, please visit http://www.mpp.org/DonateVT to make your donation today. To read the Vermont bill, please see http://www.mpp.org/VT.

Thank you, as always, 
Rob Kampia 

Executive Director 
Marijuana Policy Project 
Washington, D.C.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEMARCH 13, 2003

Vermont Senate Passes Medical Marijuana Bill 

MONTPELIER, VERMONT -- The Vermont Senate today passed S. 76, the medical marijuana bill, by a vote of 22-7. In the wake of this resounding endorsement, supporters are increasingly optimistic about the measure's prospects for becoming law this year. 

"Last year, the Vermont House passed a nearly identical bill by a vote of 82-59, becoming the first Republican-controlled state legislative chamber ever to pass a medical marijuana bill," said Billy Rogers, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, based in Washington, D.C.  "We have every reason to expect a similar vote this year. Then, the question will be whether or not Governor Jim Douglas follows the will of Vermont's citizens and their elected representatives."

Vermonters strongly support protection from arrest for seriously ill medical marijuana patients. In a poll conducted last year by the Lucas Organization, commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project, 75.7 percent of Vermonters said they "support changing the law to allow people with cancer, AIDS, and other serious illnesses to use and grow their own marijuana for medical purposes, if they have the approval of their physicians."

Gov. Douglas has given somewhat mixed signals on the issue.  In a Feb. 26 interview with the Rutland Herald, he implied he mightoppose the bill, citing federal opposition to medical marijuana. But in an interview in the March issue of Out in the Mountains, Douglas said, 

"There's a lot of evidence that it does some good and is effective where other substances aren't for certain patients and certain types of pain." He promised to speak to the governors of the eight states with existing medical marijuana laws "and ask them about their experience." 

"If Governor Douglas speaks to those eight other governors, what he will hear is that across the board these laws have worked smoothly, with few problems," Rogers said.  "He will hear that the federal government has never challenged the right of states to protect seriously ill medical marijuana patients under state law. And once he hears that eight state medical marijuana laws are working well, we are optimistic he will act to protect the sick and vulnerable in Vermont from the risk of arrest and jail for the simple
act of taking their medicine."

With 11,000 members nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project works to minimize the harm associated with marijuana - both the consumption of marijuana and the laws that are intended to prohibit such use. MPP believes that the greatest harm associated with marijuana is imprisonment. To this end, MPP focuses on removing criminal penalties for marijuana use, with a particular emphasis on making marijuana medically available to seriously ill people who have the approval of their doctors.


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