The Vermont Department of Public Safety has released the guidelines for medical marijuana dispensaries to operate within the state, according to a report by WCAX in Burlington. Patients and advocates are pleased to see progress being made to bring medical cannabis dispensaries to Vermont.
Currently, the roughly 450 medical cannabis patients in Vermont must grow their own medicine, or have a registered caregiver do it for them. This policy leaves many people without quality medicine; since growing good cannabis is not easy. The plan is for up to four dispensaries to open throughout the state by the end of the year.
Vermont's medical cannabis law is, by design, very strict. The law caps the number of patients at 1000 statewide and also has a tightly regulated patient approval process. Advocates and lawmakers agreed the strict regulations should limit fears of federal harassment.
Once the dispensaries open, patients will be asked to choose whether they would prefer to access medicine from one of the centers, or grow their own, but not both. According to a recent survey, 90% of patients would make the switch and discontinue at-home cultivation. Many respondents said the lack of expertise, and the physical labor required makes growing medicinal cannabis difficult.
"They did a real good job," state-registered medical marijuana patient Mark Tucci told WCAX. "They went from the position of 'What's best for the patients' first." He says the second priority was preventing diversion to non-patients.
Events of last year, including Hurricane Irene and federal harassment has stalled the dispensary process, and, as Tucci pointed out, smart and sensible rules were more important than implementing the program in haste.
Under the rules, the dispensary must operate as a non-profit and must be more than 1000 ft. from schools or daycare facilities. Additionally, prospective owners will have to pony up $2,500 just to apply for one of the four certificates offered by Vermont. If approved, dispensaries would pay the state $20,000 dollars for the first year, and $30,000 in the years to follow.
The rules also dictate that no more than one patient will be allowed in a dispensary at a time and any visits must be by appointment only. High requirements for building security, strict inventory controls, and background checks for all employees and board-members should help all patients and neighboring businesses feel safe.
Additionally, the dispensary will be allowed to operate a second, separate building as a grow facility, where they will limited to 126 plants, of which only 28 can be mature. When in-transit between the two facilities, the cannabis must be kept in a locked container. The owners must also keep the building under constant video surveillance and allow authorities to inspect the grow as often as needed.
Facilities that exceed the limit will be subject to fines and possible closure if excess isn't turned over to authorities.
Patients and advocates say that while happy with the rules, they would like the state to make marijuana testing available, allow for a home delivery system, and add an alternative method of receiving medicine for those who grow but don't produce enough medicine for their needs.