September 24, 2004
Associated Press
MONTPELIER
— The state will begin taking applications next month from people who want to legally use marijuana to cope with serious medical ailments.

Katherine Perera of Hancock expects to be one of the first to apply, she said Wednesday. "I plan on registering and making myself legal."

Perera has used marijuana for years to cope with nausea and lack of appetite produced by the cocktail of medicines she takes to combat HIV. She said she contracted the virus from a blood transfusion. She trekked to the Statehouse many times in recent years to lobby for passage of a law that would allow her to use marijuana without fear of going to jail.

Last spring, the Legislature passed a "medical marijuana bill." Gov. Jim Douglas allowed it to become law without his signature.

Under the new law, Vermonters such as Perera won't face prosecution for using or possessing small amounts of marijuana if they have state identity cards certifying they meet certain eligibility standards.

To qualify for the protection, an individual must have terminal cancer or AIDS, or debilitating and intractable symptoms caused by AIDS, cancer, HIV, multiple sclerosis or the treatments for any of these diseases.

The state will start taking applications for the identity cards Oct. 28.

"We are on target for implementation on Oct. 28," Frances Aumand, director of division of criminal services in the Department of Public Safety, said Wednesday to lawmakers on the Health Access Oversight Committee. He said the application form will be posted on the department's Web site shortly before the target starting date.

The state will have 30 days from the date of an application to verify an individual's medical condition by contacting the doctor the person listed on the form. Doctors won't be asked whether they recommend marijuana use, Aumand said.

Aumand said his office has hired a computer firm to create the framework for a database of the users and caregivers. Police around the state must be able to check the list 24 hours a day.