MONTPELIER, Vt. — During the final week of the 2017 Vermont legislative session, a committee comprised of both representatives and senators met to finalize the details of S.16, a medical marijuana reform bill that was co-sponsored by seven of the chamber’s 30 senators and had been amended and eventually passed by the House.
The final version approved and passed by all the appropriate committees, and which is expected to be signed into law by Governor Phil Scott, will provide more and faster ways for Vermonters to become registered patients, make more medical conditions eligible for treatment with medical marijuana, and provide more locations for patients to purchase legal medical marijuana.
For Current & Prospective patients:
- Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and PTSD would become new qualifying conditions. PTSD applicants must provide proof they are also receiving treatment from a mental health care provider.
- A registered patient can serve as a caregiver for one additional patient; however a caregiver who is not a patient may only continue to serve one patient.
- Patients could become registered by being referred to a qualified specialist, instead of waiting for a 3-month relationship with a new medical professional. If a patient’s debilitating condition is of recent or sudden onset, he/she can also skip the three month minimum relationship with the signing medical professional.
- Patient applications will no longer need to be notarized as part of the application process.
- Patients who designate a dispensary will still only be allowed to purchase from one dispensary. However, there was previously a clause that said ‘dispensary patients may not grow or obtain marijuana from any other source’, which has since been removed, meaning that dispensary patients could theoretically grow their own at home. That does not, however, mean that home grow patients could access dispensaries and purchase there.
- The medical marijuana registry website will be updated:
- “The Department of Public Safety shall undertake measures to ensure that the website for the Medical Marijuana Registry is up-to-date and user-friendly. Specifically, the website shall not list the Medical Marijuana Registry with either the Sex Offender Registry or criminal history records in such a way that creates an impression of an association between patients and caregivers and registered sex offenders or persons criminal records.”
Originally, the bill had also called to increase the monthly per-patient purchase and possession limit from two to three ounces, but those provisions failed.
For Medical Marijuana Dispensaries:
- One additional dispensary license will be added (applications starting July 1, 2017) bringing the total to five. When there are 7,000 total registered patients, a sixth license will also be issued.
- Each licensed dispensary will be permitted to open a second retail location.
- Existing dispensary operators would be able to open ‘satellite’ locations, but a single dispensary could operate in no more than three (3) locations.
- New satellite locations would be considered part of one registered dispensary.
- “Does that mean an existing dispensary could open up a satellite location without having to pay the annual $25,000 operational fee?” Not sure, but that’s how we interpret it.
- Existing dispensaries would be allowed to convert into for-profit businesses and start accepting investment, including from out-of-state investors.
- “Financiers” have been added as a category of dispensary stakeholders and would be subject to background checks and the same financial scrutiny as operators and employees.
- The definition of ‘owner’ has also been expanded to include the spouses and partners as interested parties.
- Existing dispensaries still will not be allowed to advertise.
- Although this loophole might close at some point, this doesn’t matter because dispensaries already advertise via a state-approved nonprofit trade group that represents three of the four dispensaries, the Vermont Cannabis Trades Association.
- Existing dispensaries will be allowed to cultivate cannabis outdoors in facilities without roofs provided they are fenced in.
- By October 2017, the dispensaries, Department of Public Safety, and Department of Agriculture will create a plan to enact independent product testing.