Vermont: Agency of Administration
109 State Street
Montpelier, VT 05609
After last weeks statewide discussion on marijuana in Vermont, I wanted to offer my thoughts on reflecting over the meeting, and perhaps a middle ground and way for the state to move forward with marijuana reform that could be an example for the rest of the country. I offer this as someone who has provided testimony to the state on Decriminalization in 2013.
To further highlight my credentials in this industry, I worked in Nevada and Alaska on tax & regulate initiatives in 2004. It was great to see Alaska finally legalize marijuana in this past election. I’ve been a medical marijuana patient in California since 2005. As a veteran with PTSD, Chronic Pain, Tinnitus, and sleep disorders due this combination of ailments, I realized upon exiting the military in 1998 how marijuana helped me, so I’ve worked to advance any laws that reform prohibition. In 2007, I was the inaugural class valedictorian of Oakland’s acclaimed cannabis college, Oaksterdam University. Soon thereafter, I was working for the Berkeley Patients Group which became a model dispensary for many New England States, and my former human resources manager now runs 4 dispensaries in Maine. With BPG I worked as a QA/QC manager and dispensary manager during my interim there.
While working in California, I found myself at the dispensary working 50-60 hour weeks. On my days off, I would visit other dispensaries and eventually decided to work for myself rather than for a company to learn more about the industry. After leaving Berkeley, I moved to Humboldt County and worked with over a dozen dispensaries in across Northern California, providing seeds from industry renowned breeders, providing affordable high quality concentrates in the form of dry sieve kif extractions and H2O hashish extractions, and sometimes oils and wax extractions. In developing relationships with the various dispensaries, I also provided them with high grade pharmaceutical grade glass for storage of the medicine in its various forms, and filter bags for the extraction of H2O hashish that I sourced from Canada.
Since moving to Vermont, I was hoping for some of the things I was a part of in California. However, the industry is a closed vertical integration model that doesn’t lend well to outside vendors, no matter how much experience or expertise they might have. So after starting my consulting company Cannabis.Pro LLC early last year I realized that I needed to look toward the public sector to remain viable in the industry as a consultant. Last September I was brought on board of mCig, Inc. (OTCQB: MCIG) as the Chief Operating Officer, and since then we’ve brought 7 products to market, some of them even manufactured here in Vermont, other domestically, and some from China. During this tenure, I’ve also become the CEO of VitaCig, Inc. a company that produces an e-cigarette type vaporizer aimed at harm reduction without addictive nicotine. We’ve just been approved by the SEC to be publicly traded as well.
My intention as an industry developer is to advocate for the open source model for this industry, a free cannabis industry. Not as in “free” like free beer, but free, as in an open market. It is with this perspective that I present my ideas for reform in Vermont vs. a flat out legalization model in haste.
Vermont’s medical marijuana law is broken and needs reform. I had to spend months finding a doctor who would even sign the paperwork for me to become a patient in Vermont, even though I was a qualified patient in California since 2005, from one of the leading doctors in the industry. My main issue here is that as a disabled veteran, I had to go outside the VA system in order to find a doctor because it is currently VA and federal policy to not allow any VA doctors to sign off on medical marijuana recommendations or paperwork.
Once I finally found a doctor, I then still had to wait 6 months for the state to recognize me as a patient. This borders on the grounds of patient abandonment because the state will accept doctors of other states that border Vermont but not doctors who have 20-40 years of experience in the industry in California. What other medicine is a patient forced to quit for 6 months legally when they move from one state to another?
Beyond the difficulty of finding a doctor, I also found it difficult to find good quality medicine at the dispensary I picked. Luckily I knew to buy single grams of each medicine to find the right ones for me, but there was a lot of money I wasted on poor quality and poor potency medicine. What I’ve found also was that I was being sold wet improperly dried and cured hashish that I was paying top dollar for. It was mediocre hash at best, but with a monopoly that is state sanctioned, I was forced to buy it because I had no other alternative than the black market. Luckily the dry herb and hashish did improve in quality over time, but it is still not anywhere near the quality of medicine I regularly found in Northern California, be it the Bay Area or the Emerald Triangle.
I’m now in my 2nd year as a legal patient in Vermont, and I switched my dispensary to try another. I didn’t want to pay $25 and be unhappy with the decision, and then be forced to wait 90 days in order to go back to the dispensary that I was getting mediocre medicine from. I didn’t want to go from C grade to D or E grade, and I had no way of determining that. This part of the law in Vermont is broken. Patients should have 90 days to determine which dispensary they like best and there should be a way for the state and dispensaries to communicate the meager 2 oz. per month limit, in my professional opinion, this should be lifted to 4 oz. per month, for the fact alone of the winter months. The federal government provides 8-9oz/month to the patients that remain on the Federal Compassionate IND program. Another reason people should have a larger access to plant quantity is if they want to cook their own medibles or make their own food oils or topicals, and 2 ounce per month may not be enough for some patients.
As a veteran who has been diagnosed with PTSD, I don’t see the difficulty in making PTSD a qualifying condition. The Israeli military has thoroughly researched this medicine on its military with valued efficacy. In fact, my proposal is for the state to open up qualifying conditions to any condition that a certified medical professional sees fit to recommend the plant for therapeutic purposes. Under federal law, we all need to be enrolled in an insurance program, so technically we all need a doctor, even more-so will people in Vermont have this access as we move towards the single payer system. This is one proposal I have for the state to fix its medical marijuana program and offer a middle ground on legalization without flat out over the counter sales to any adult in a “recreational” market.
There needs to be more than 4 dispensaries in the state, the state needs to allow patients to shop for the best dispensary for them. This limited market in which there is a mini-monopoly with Shane Lynn’s operation is unacceptable. I propose that each county have its own dispensary, and Chittenden county itself should have 4 dispensaries. I can tell you that Champlain Valley Dispensary has too many patients to handle and Vermont Patients Alliance doesn’t have enough, after just one visit to VPA.
Patients should be allowed to grow their own medicine, and between crops, be able to purchase from a dispensary the 2oz/month. This would allow patients who farm to grow some of their own medicine outdoors if they choose to, as with the meager plant limits, a patient could potentially grow a year supply of medicine with one well maintained and cultivated outdoor harvest without any need for a dispensary. Weather can turn an outdoor harvest into mold and mush in one poorly timed storm, so patients shouldn’t be stuck with having to supply their own medicine either if they choose to do so. In fact, indoor harvests can also go wrong with an extended power outage often caused by Vermont’s hectic weather patterns, mold, mildew, bacteria, virus, pests, etc.
With Vermont’s tourism industry, it would also be wise to open up the dispensary system to patient’s traveling here from other states who already have medical marijuana as just in the eastern US we have Michigan, Delaware, Maryland, New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut, Washington D.C., and perhaps even Pennsylvania in 2015. As the microbrew industry is world recognized here, perhaps so can the state’s cannabis.
As we realize that the sky isn’t falling with reformed medical marijuana laws. I believe the state will have less DUI, less domestic abuse, less sexual assault, less of an opiate problem, less teen use of cannabis, less suicides, less violent crime, and more happy people in general with a more progressive medical marijuana program. With a sunset on this type of law, then the state can consider a move to overall legalization without fear of the unknown as we can study statistics, police blotters, and other programs implemented throughout the country and world. We can learn from others’ mistakes as we correct our own and truly make medical marijuana accessible to those who need it and are already using it to self medicate whether they realize it or not.
I look forward to your reply and am open to discuss this further with anyone with the State or with Rand Corp.
Mark J. Linkhorst