Health Care

Medical marijuana expansion bill goes to governor’s desk

With final approval in the Senate on Wednesday, legislation to expand the state’s medical marijuana program is headed to the governor.

Lawmakers in both chambers sought to make it easier for patients across the state to access medical dispensaries after hearing from people in areas like Bennington and the Northeast Kingdom that they face lengthy trips to the nearest site.

The final version of the bill, S.16, will create one additional license for a medical dispensary, bringing the total in the state to five. If the number of patients on the registry reaches 7,000 — about 4,000 are currently enrolled — a sixth license will be created.

Under the legislation, each dispensary will be able to operate two retail locations, for a potential total of 12 around the state.

The change in licenses represents a compromise between the House and Senate positions. The Senate initially created eight new licenses, and the House kept the limit at four but allowed each to have three stores.

The bill also expands the list of conditions that qualify for marijuana for symptom relief to include Parkinson’s and Crohn’s diseases. Patients with post-traumatic stress disorder will also be eligible, though they must be receiving treatment from a mental health provider — a proposal from the House version.

A spokesperson for Gov. Phil Scott said the governor will need to review the bill before deciding whether to sign it.

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Elizabeth Hewitt

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