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An Open Letter to James Pepper
 Re: Correcting your statement to Bob Kinzel in Vermont Public local news story

James Pepper


Vermont Cannabis Control Board

Dear Mr. Pepper




RE: Your statement to Bob Kinzel in the Vermont Public news story Vermont lawmakers consider changing medical cannabis program, retail potency limits, Feb. 9, 2024

“James Pepper: There are a number of patients out there, there's a number of Vermonters out there, that desperately need the products and services that are only available at medical dispensaries. Well, if those dispensaries start to close their doors, it's a direct harm to those patients that need either the confidentiality or the high potency products.”

We respectfully request that you correct your statement to Bob Kinzel of Vermont Public about the medical need for high-potency cannabis products. Your statement created the misleading impression that changing the medical cannabis program would benefit patients, and as Vermont physicians, we strongly disagree for two reasons.

First, there is no convincing medical evidence supporting the use of high-potency cannabis (defined as greater than to 10 to 15% THC) for any medical use. Studies of the medicinal benefits of cannabis use have involved cannabis with no more than 15% THC content. This is undoubtedly because the health risks of high-potency cannabis are well-known, and it would be unethical to conduct double-blind experiments on human beings by exposing them to high-potency cannabis.

In April of 2022, when testifying before the Senate Health and Welfare Committee against a cap, you yourself reminded the Committee that the stated intent of the law is “consumer protection, public health and safety,” and you acknowledged that “these concentrates are dangerous… they are dangerous you know, there are long term negative health consequences of consuming high THC concentrates.” That remains true today and is especially true for fragile patients with serious chronic medical conditions who require maintenance on pharmaceuticals, which also puts them at risk for dangerous drug interactions.


Second, allowing sales of high-potency cannabis at all retail stores will wreak havoc on the heightened public-safety protections currently applicable to dispensaries. With limited exceptions, no one can be allowed to enter a dispensary without a marijuana “medical” card.  Medical dispensary staff must maintain careful records of all patients and their cards and safeguard the privacy of this data. 

It is inconceivable that retail store staff will comply with these protections.  Already now there is widespread violation of Vermont’s existing laws and rules governing those stores.  For example, despite complaints to the Cannabis Board about widespread violation, and the resulting issuance of a warning by the Board to all licensees, it continues to be true that potential customers who enter a retail store rarely are handed a copy of the safety information flyer (point of sale flyer) that the statute mandates be given to every customer.  In addition, lollipops and candies that are appealing to children are sold in recreational stores, in violation of the law. (The THC child poisoning rate has risen by 1,375 percent).  It seems unlikely that the heightened protections needed for dispensaries would be honored, or when they are not honored, that the Board will have the time and energy to effectively inspect and sanction violators. 

Thank you,

Lisa K. Catapano-Friedman, MD, DLFAPA, Psychiatrist
President, Vt Psychiatric Association 
Bennington and Manchester

Linda Zamvil, MD, APBN, Psychiatrist
Treasurer, Vt Psychiatric Association

Catherine Antley, MD,

Anatomic and Clinical Pathologist, Dermatopathologist 
So. Burlington


Kim Blake, MD, Obstetrician and Gynecologist

South Burlington

David Charnock, MD, Otolaryngologist (ENT Surgeon)


Melisa Gibson, MD, Family Medicine

Deb Henley, MD, Orthopedic Surgeon 
Rutland and Manchester


Janet Kirwan, MD, Cardiologist 
South Burlington

Robert W. McDowell, MD, Anatomic and Clinical Pathologist

Paul Reiss, MD, Family Medicine 

Doctors continue to sign on daily. Please check back regularly.

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