Gov. Peter Shumlin says he supports an effort in Congress to block the federal government from cracking down on state-sanctioned medical marijuana dispensaries. Twenty-two states, including Vermont, have enacted medical marijuana laws in the past few years.
But dispensaries in these states have been under the threat of being closed down by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency because the centers are in violation of federal drug laws.
And in Massachusetts, the DEA has notified doctors who are affiliated with medical marijuana centers that the DEA will revoke a physician’s license to prescribe certain drugs if the doctor doesn’t break their ties with these facilities.
Recently, a coalition of the most liberal and the most conservative members of the U.S. House joined together to pass a plan to prohibit the DEA from interfering with state sanctioned medical marijuana dispensaries.
Shumlin says he supports this effort.
“We’re doing the right thing for folks that need marijuana for medical purposes,” said Shumlin. “I think that Congress’s action just adds more voices to the common sense approach to marijuana policy.”
Congressman Peter Welch voted for the bill. While some supporters of the plan see it as a state’s rights issue, Welch says he views the proposal as being supportive of the doctor-patient relationship.
“If a doctor and a patient find that medical marijuana may alleviate pain and suffering why would the federal government get between the doctor and the patient?” said Welch. “So I think this is just basic respect for the fact that some doctors and some patients see medical marijuana as a way to relieve pain and let’s stay out of the way and let those folks make those decisions.”
And Welch doesn’t think the bill paves the way for the national legalization of marijuana because he says that is a totally different issue.
“The legalization debate in my view does engage states where communities have to come to their own conclusions about it,” said Welch. “And the federal government obviously has a law enforcement role. It’s quite distinct from a medical prescription.”
The proposal in the House was added as an amendment to a budget bill for the Commerce and Justice Departments. The measure will now be considered by the U.S. Senate in the coming weeks.