Vermont considers medical marijuana dispensaries

MONTPELIER — Here’s what Shayne Lynn envisions somewhere in Chittenden County: an office as non-descript as a doctor’s office or a pharmacy from which he would sell marijuana to those with qualifying medical conditions.

There’d be a waiting room. Clients would be seen by appointment only. There’d be security. He might also offer clients yoga, acupuncture and Reiki. He’d probably grow the marijuana somewhere else, at an indoor facility.

Lynn could become one of the first people to run such an operation in Vermont if proposed legislation the Senate is expected to consider this week passes.

Lynn, a 40-year-old professional photographer who lives in Burlington, said he believes in marijuana’s medicinal value for those who suffer from chronic pain and he thinks it’s wrong that such people have nowhere legal to buy the relief.

“People having to go out and buy it on a corner from someone — it’s not right,” Lynn said. “I see this as an opportunity to run a successful, local, nonprofit business which would provide medical respectability to the current and future patients on the registry. It would open a more honest, serious dialogue about the benefits of cannabis.”

Medical marijuana has been legal in Vermont since 2004, for those with qualifying illnesses — including cancer, AIDS and multiple sclerosis — who sign up for the state’s registry. The 2004 law allows patients to grow their own marijuana, but advocates say many find that a daunting task, leaving them with the prospect of making illegal deals for street dope.

The state’s medical marijuana registry specifies, “The Marijuana Registry is neither a source for marijuana nor can the Registry provide information to patients on how to obtain marijuana.”

The answer, advocates say, is to legalize a small number of medical marijuana dispensaries — nonprofit operations that would grow marijuana and sell it to those on the medical marijuana registry.

“They have a right to have this symptom-relief medication, yet we’ve given them no ability to get it in a legal manner in which the product is safe,” said Sen. Jeanette White, D-Windham, chairwoman of the Senate Government Operations Committee that passed the bill the Senate will consider this week.

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