It appears the Vermont government is operating smoothly thanks to some extra green, causing state lawmakers to defend the risky move.
According to Vermont Public Radio, the state government redirected medical marijuana patients’ registration costs to a general fund when it was dealing with an almost $30 million revenue deficit.
Vermont lawmakers created the state’s medical marijuana program 15 years ago and patients are required to pay a yearly $50 registration fee. With nearly 5,300 patients, that means Vermont brings in roughly $265,000 in medical marijuana registration fees alone.
The revenue brought in goes directly into a specific medical marijuana registry fund that is administered by the Department of Public Safety.
According to VPR, the fund held approximately $500,000, more than what it takes to maintain the program, this past July. After a revenue forecast anticipated a $30 million shortage in state tax revenue for the month, lawmakers redirected $300,000 from the medical marijuana fund into Vermont’s general fund.
“We needed to raise almost $30 million; that is not a small chunk of change,” said Adam Greshin, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Finance and Management.
Lawmakers like Greshin sought out a way to deal with the impending deficit without disturbing amenities Vermont residents need.
“[The medical marijuana registry fund has] been carrying a balance for a number of years, which we had noticed … so that’s why we thought it was a good idea to revert that money back to the general fund,” Greshin explained.
In 2003, the Vermont government promised the newly formed medical marijuana programs’ advocates that taxpayers would not spend any money on the debated program.
Medical marijuana activists and patients like Fran Janik think it is unethical for the state to take money out of the program’s fund.
“To have that much funding disappear, be taken almost as if it was tax dollars — I see that as simply wrong,” Janik said.
Greshin, however, does not think it is wrong.
“We’re not taking this fund and buying luxury items for certain Vermonters,” Greshin said. “It’s helping to run government which is exactly what happened in this case.”