Vermont

Legal Bud
In 2007, the Vermont General Assembly passed Senate Bill 7, an act relating to the compassionate use of marijuana for medical purposes. The bill amends 18 V.S.A. Chapter 86 (Vermont’s medical marijuana law) by broadening the range of medical conditions that qualify a patient for the program and increasing the amount of marijuana plants a patient may cultivate from one mature and two immature plants to two mature and seven immature plants. The bill also allows for licensed physicians in neighboring states to legally recommend cannabis to Vermont patients, while also reducing the application fee from $100 to $50.

The Vermont General Assembly placed the responsibility for managing this program and creating the registry within the Department of Public Safety (the Department). The Department refers to this program as the Marijuana Registry. The responsibilities for implementation and administration are assigned to the Vermont Criminal Information Center. The Vermont Criminal Information Center is a section within the Department that manages a diverse set of databases and has as one of its missions the protection of the confidentiality and privacy of the personal identifying information contained in these registry databases.

The Vermont Department of Public Safety has the following forms available for download:

Registered Patient Application Form
.PDF (29 kb) – .DOC (94 kb)

Registered Caregiver Application Form
.PDF (20 kb) – .DOC (91 kb)

II. Becoming A Patient
A. How to become a medical marijuana patient in the state of Vermont

In order to become a “registered patient” with the Vermont Marijuana Registry, a person must be diagnosed with a debilitating medical condition by a physician in the course of a bona fide physician-patient relationship. The patient must complete the application form shown above and attach a medical verification form from the Vermont Department of Public Safety, which is to be completed by the patient’s physician.

The Registry will process the application within 30 days after your application is complete. If the application is approved the patient will be notified in writing and receive a Marijuana Registry Identification Card.

If the application is denied the patient will be notified in writing and has the right to appeal the denial within seven days to the review board established by Vermont Senate Bill 7 of 2008.
B. Registration Fee

There is a $50 non-refundable fee for each application. There are no provisions to waive the fee, pay the fee in installments, or pay the fee with a credit card. The fee must accompany each new or renewal application. The fee must be paid by check or money order. Checks or money orders should be made out to the Vermont Department of Public Safety. Please note that the fee will not be returned in the event that the patient’s application is denied.
C. Eligible medical conditions

The Act creating the Marijuana Registry was designed to protect certain seriously ill and terminally ill patients from state criminal penalties for using marijuana to address the symptoms or effects of their debilitating medical condition. Only people with a debilitating medical condition may use marijuana, provided that reasonable medical efforts have been made over a reasonable amount of time without successfully relieving the symptoms.

According to Vermont law, “Debilitating medical condition” means:

1. Cancer, acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, multiple sclerosis (MS), or the treatment of these diseases or medical conditions if:
1. the disease, condition or its treatment results in severe, persistent, and intractable symptoms; or
2. a disease, medical condition, or its treatment that is chronic, debilitating, and produces severe, persistent, and one or more of the following intractable symptoms: cachexia or wasting syndrome; severe pain; severe nausea; or seizures.

D. Written Certification Must be Provided to Prove Eligibility

A physician must verify both that the patient has a debilitating medical condition and that the physician has had a “bona fide physician-patient relationship” with the applicant. The phrase “bona fide physician-patient relationship” means a treating or consulting relationship of not less than six months duration, in the course of which a physician has completed a full assessment of the registered patient’s medical history and current medical condition, including a personal physical examination.

A sample form is provided with the application packet on the Vermont State website.
E. Finding a Doctor

The State of Vermont cannot refer patients to doctors for the purpose of receiving a medical marijuana evaluation. It is the responsibility of the patient to work with a physician with whom he/she has a bona fide doctor-patient relationship.

Vermont law allows patients to see a physician licensed to practice medicine, and who is able to prescribe drugs in Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts or New York. If the physician is licensed in a state other than Vermont, the department will contact the state’s medical practice board when processing the applicant’s paperwork, to verify the physician is in good standing in that state.

A physician who has participated in a patient’s application process under the rules, policies or procedures of the Marijuana Registry shall not be subject to arrest, prosecution, or disciplinary action, penalized in any manner, or denied any right or privilege under state law, except for providing false information, in the application or renewal process.
F. Renewal Applications

Registrations are issued for one year and are renewable. A new application and fee must be submitted for each renewal request. The Registry will notify each patient when it is time to renew the patient’s registration.
G. Age Limits

If the patient is under the age of 18 the application must be signed by both the patient and a parent or guardian.
H. Personal Records

Americans for Safe Access strongly urges all patients to keep copies of all paperwork they have related to their status as a medical marijuana patient as proof of legal status. This is meant to protect patients from possible future encounters with law enforcement agents.
III. Limitations and Protections
A. Possession and Growing Limitations

“Possession limit” means the amount of marijuana collectively possessed by the registered patient and the patient’s registered caregiver. Vermont Senate Bill 7 of 2008 amends the possession limits in 18 V.S.A. Chapter 86 to be:

1. No more than two mature marijuana plants, seven immature plants; and
2. Two ounces of usable marijuana.

A marijuana plant shall be considered mature when male or female flower buds are readily observed on the plant by unaided visual examination. Until this sexual differentiation has taken place, a marijuana plant will be considered immature.
B. Consumption of Medical Marijuana

A medical marijuana patient in the state of Vermont may only legally use marijuana for medical purposes within the state of Vermont. Patients may not use marijuana in public, while operating a motorized vehicle, in a workplace, while operating heavy machinery or handling a dangerous instrumentality or in a manner that endangers the health or well-being of another person.

The Vermont medical marijuana law does not exempt any person from arrest or prosecution for:

1. Being under the influence of marijuana while:
1. Operating a motor vehicle, boat, or vessel, or any other vehicle propelled or drawn by power other than muscular power;
2. In a workplace or place of employment; or
3. Operating heavy machinery or handling a dangerous instrumentality
2. The use or possession of marijuana by a registered patient or a registered caregiver:
1. For purposes other than medical use as permitted by Vermont’s medical marijuana law; or
2. In a manner that endangers the health or well-being of another person
3. The smoking of marijuana in any public place, including:
1. A school bus, public bus, or other public vehicle;
2. A workplace or place of employment;
3. Any school grounds;
4. Any correctional facility; or
5. Any public park, public beach, public recreation center, or youth center

C. Paraphernalia associated with medical use

Paraphernalia associated with medical marijuana use is permitted under Vermont state law. Under Vermont’s medical marijuana law, “Use for symptom relief” means the acquisition, possession, cultivation, use, transfer, or transportation of marijuana or paraphernalia relating to the administration of marijuana to address the symptoms or effects of a registered patient’s debilitating medical condition which is in compliance with all the limitations and restrictions of Vermont’s medical marijuana law. For the purposes of this definition, “transfer” is limited to the transfer of marijuana and paraphernalia between a registered caregiver and a registered patient.
D. Access to Medical Marijuana

Medical marijuana patients cannot go to a pharmacy to fill a prescription for medical marijuana. Pharmacies can only dispense medications that are “prescribed.” Unfortunately, medical marijuana is classified by the federal government as a Schedule I drug, which means that it cannot be prescribed by any health care professional.

The Marijuana Registry is neither a source for marijuana nor can the Registry provide information to patients on how to obtain marijuana.
E. Growing/Dispensing Collectives and Cooperatives

The Vermont medical marijuana law does not provide guidance for growing/dispensing collectives and cooperatives.

Medical marijuana may only be grown in a single “secure indoor facility.” A “secure indoor facility” means a building or room equipped with locks or other security devices that permit access only by the registered patient or registered caregiver. The location of the “secure indoor facility” must be specified in your Marijuana Registry application.

Therefore, it appears that the Vermont medical marijuana law does not permit growing/dispensing collectives and cooperatives. Americans for Safe access strongly recommends that any patients who are interested in forming a dispensing collective or cooperative consult an attorney before doing so.
F. Caregivers

The Act also allows a “caregiver” to register and receive the same criminal protections as the registered patient. However, the caregiver is not entitled to use medical marijuana.

A registered caregiver may serve as the caregiver for one registered patient only, and a registered patient may only have one registered caregiver at a time. A person may submit a signed application to the department of public safety to become a registered patient’s caregiver. The department shall approve or deny the application in writing within 30 days. Upon approval, the department will issue the caregiver an authorization card, including the caregiver’s name, photograph, and a unique identifier.

A patient and/or registered caregiver may legally transport medical marijuana – but only in Vermont. The transportation of marijuana is subject to the possession limit discussed above and may only be done if the marijuana is secured in a locked container.

To be a registered caregiver you must be at least 21 years old and never have been convicted of a drug-related crime. You must also complete the application form for a registered caregiver.

Persons applying to be a registered caregiver must sign a release form for a criminal record check. You are also required to provide a digital photograph of yourself for your Marijuana Registry Identification Card. Send the completed forms along with the other required items via U.S. Mail (faxes and electronic filing are not acceptable) to the Vermont Marijuana Registry at the address provided above.

A registered caregiver agrees to undertake the responsibility of managing the well-being of a registered patient with respect to the use of medical marijuana. In Vermont, medical marijuana use means the acquisition, possession, cultivation, use, transfer, or transportation of marijuana or paraphernalia relating to the administration of marijuana to address the symptoms or effects of a registered patient’s debilitating medical condition which is in compliance with 18 V.S.A. Chapter 8. The definition of “transfer” is limited to the transfer of marijuana between the registered caregiver and the registered patient.

Within 72 hours after the death of a registered patient, the patient’s registered caregiver shall return to the Department for disposal of any marijuana or marijuana plants in the possession of the patient or registered caregiver at the time of the patient’s death. If the patient did not have a registered caregiver, the patient’s next of kin shall contact the Department of public safety within 72 hours after the patient’s death and shall ask the Department to retrieve such marijuana and marijuana plants for disposal.
G. Housing

The Vermont medical marijuana law does not addresses whether or not a qualified patient can be evicted because of their status as a patient, even if that patient has the amount of medical marijuana allowed by law. Therefore, it is up to each patient to decide whether or not to tell his/her landlord about their status as a medical marijuana patient.

In addition, nothing in Vermont’s medical marijuana law specifically addresses whether or not a person can be a registred patient and live in subsidized housing. However, under federal law, HUD has clear regulations prohibiting ANY marijuana use in federally subsidized housing.

Vermont’s medical marijuana law does not address the issue of whether or not patients who live within 1000 feet of a school, AKA a “drug free zone” can still grow and/or possess medical marijuana.

A clear prohibition does exist on the medical use of marijuana in any Vermont state or federal correctional facility.

If a patient has questions about any of these important issues, it is advisable that the patient speak to an attorney.
H. Employment

The Vermont medical marijuana law does not provide any accommodation for the medical use of marijuana in a place of employment. However, the issue of whether or not that pertains only to on-the-job medical marijuana use, or more generally, to the employment of any individual who engages in the medical use of marijuana, is not addressed.

The Vermont medical marijuana law also does not address the issue of employment-related drug testing.
I. Reciprocity

Vermont Residents: Vermont currently has no reciprocity agreements with other states to honor Vermont’s medical marijuana law. This includes even those states that currently have medical marijuana laws of their own.

However, in Montana, medical marijuana patients from other states who are valid medical marijuana patients under that state’s law are protected under Section 4(8) of the Montana Medical Marijuana Act [Sec. 50-46-201(8), MCA]. A registry identification card or its equivalent issued by another state government to permit the medical use of marijuana by a qualifying patient or to permit a person to assist with a qualifying patient’s medical use of marijuana has the same force and effect as a registry identification card issued by the Department of Public Health and Human Services in Montana. Therefore, medical marijuana patients from Vermont should be protected in Montana under Montana state law. See the Montana Patients Guide for details on the protections and limitations that Montana state law affords medical marijuana patients.

Additionally, in Rhode Island, The Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act (MMA) protects patients and primary caregivers from outside Rhode Island who have a state issued medical marijuana ID card, or its equivalent. The MMA states, “A registry identification card, or its equivalent, issued under the laws of another state, U.S. territory, or the District of Columbia to permit the medical use of marijuana by a qualifying patient, or to permit a person to assist with a qualifying patient’s medical use of marijuana, shall have the same force and effect as a registry identification card issued by the department.” Therefore, medical marijuana patients from the other medical marijuana states that have state issued cards should be protected in the state of Rhode Island. See the Rhode Island Patients Guide for more information.

In states with no medical marijuana program, marijuana use, regardless of a doctor’s recommendation, is illegal. You may be arrested and charged with civil or criminal offenses in those states.
J. Law Enforcement

A person who has in his or her possession a valid registration card issued by the Department and who is in compliance with the requirements of Vermont’s medical marijuana law, including the possession limits in subdivision 4472(4) of that law, shall be exempt from arrest or prosecution under subsection 4230(a).

No person shall be subject to arrest or prosecution for possession, conspiracy, or any other offense for simply being in the presence or vicinity of a registered patient or registered caregiver engaged in use of medical marijuana.

A law enforcement officer shall not be required to return marijuana or paraphernalia relating to its use seized from a registered patient or registered caregiver.

In response to a person-specific or property-specific inquiry by a law enforcement officer or agency made in the course of a bona fide investigation or prosecution, the Department may verify the identities and registered property addresses of the registered patient and the patient’s registered caregiver.

The Department maintains a separate secure electronic database accessible to law enforcement personnel 24 hours a day that uses a unique identifier system to allow law enforcement to verify that a person is a registered patient or registered caregiver.

Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, a person who knowingly gives to any law enforcement officer false information to avoid arrest or prosecution, or to assist another in avoiding arrest or prosecution, shall be imprisoned for not more than one year or fined not more than $1,000.00 or both. This penalty shall be in addition to any other penalties that may apply for the possession or use of marijuana.
K. Confidentiality

The Department must keep confidential the records of all people registered with the Registry. An exception to this confidentiality policy is that law enforcement has the authority to verify whether or not a person is a registered patient or caregiver. Queries by law enforcement are only authorized in connection with a specific criminal investigation.

The Department maintains and keeps confidential the records of all registered patients and registered caregivers in a secure database accessible by authorized Department of Health employees only.
L. Insurance

Under Vermont state law, no governmental, private, or any other health insurance provider shall be liable for any claim for reimbursement for the medical use of marijuana.
Source : www.safeaccessnow.org

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