Sen. Patrick Leahy is leading an effort in the U.S. Senate to prevent the Trump Administration from cracking down on states that have legalized the use of medical marijuana.
Leahy says he strongly believes that the issue of medical marijuana is a state concern and he doesn't want the federal government to take any action to block states from administering their laws.
Currently, 29 states including Vermont have approved the use of medical marijuana.
Leahy says it's a waste of time and money for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to threaten states over this issue.
“If a state has a law that allows medical marijuana we've got enough important things to do not to have Jeff Sessions or anybody else go in and try to change that," said Leahy.
The U.S. Senate Appropriations committee has voted to support an amendment, sponsored by Leahy, that prohibits the use of federal funds to interfere with the operations of state approved medical marijuana programs.
"That ensures the Justice Department actually focuses on real things,” said Leahy. “They don't have enough people to go after medical marijuana patients who are following their state laws."
In Vermont, a new law went into effect last month that could double the number of medical marijuana dispensaries in the next year.
Currently, there are four licensed facilities — in Burlington, Montpelier, Brandon and Brattleboro.
The new bill adds a fifth dispensary and allows each of these operations to open a satellite facility with state approval. In addition, another dispensary can open when the number of medical marijuana patients reaches seven thousand. Right now there are roughly four thousand Vermonters who participate in this program.
Bennington Sen. Dick Sears is the chairman of the Vermont Senate Judiciary committee and a sponsor of the new law.
"It has tremendous benefit in relieving the symptoms of various illnesses,” said Sears. “The new bill also provides more alternatives for people to buy through increased number of dispensaries."
Sears is hoping that the new law will result in the opening of a facility in the southwestern part of Vermont.
"Right now my constituents will have to travel to Brattleboro or Brandon to find the product to buy it legally, so many are still using the black market," said Sears.
While Gov. Phil Scott has some concerns about the legalization of recreational marijuana, as a state senator he voted for the original medical marijuana legislation and he signed the new bill into law this Spring.
"I think that it's regulated and it's been beneficial for Vermont," said Scott.
The full U.S. Senate is expected to consider this issue after its August recess.