R.I. Medical Marijuana Hearing Is Packed, But Few Speak Up


Graphic: thefreshscent.com

​The auditorium was packed Tuesday, but only five people voiced their opinions on the proposed tightening of Rhode Island’s medical marijuana law during a public hearing held by the Department of Health.

Two individuals spoke, as well as representatives of three organizations: the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Rhode Island Medical Marijuana Society, and the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition, reports Talia Buford at The Providence Journal.
The bill, backed by two state legislators — who are, surprise, surprise, both retired police officers — is designed to “close loopholes” in the state’s medical marijuana law.

Graphic: woldcnews.com

​Representatives Joseph Almeida and John M. Carnevale claim they support Rhode Island’s efforts to allow marijuana use by sick patients, but they believe the current law regulating who can grow and use the herb “leaves room for abuse,” reports ProJo‘s Katherine Gregg.
Their bill would place tighter limits on who can legally grow marijuana.
It would also give state police a broad power they don’t have under current law: Authority to conduct unannounced inspections, at any time, of the three official marijuana dispensaries lawmakers authorized last year.
The Assembly authorized state-licensed dispensaries after it was pointed out that although it is legal for medical marijuana patients to grow, possess and use the herb, no legal system was in place for them to purchase it.
Medical marijuana patient and caregiver Joseph Young told the audience at the hearing that he’d like to see more input from patients in the process for choosing compassion center (dispensary) operators.
“Growing my own medicine is the only part of my care that I have control over,” Young said.
The revised statue would allow for one Rhode Island compassion center to open this year, with a maximum of three dispensaries operating at any time after 2010.

Graphic: ri.gov

​The centers will be required to present plans on how they plan to obtain marijuana, including whether they plan to grow it on site, said Annmarie Beardsworth, spokesperson for the Department of Health.
The legislation would bar the state from registering anyone with a capital offense or felony drug conviction as a “caregiver,” the state’s term for someone licensed to grow and provide marijuana to those allowed to use it medically.
Under the bill, caregivers would be entirely eliminated from from the marijuana supply chain after January 1, 2012, when the state’s three marijuana dispensaries are expected to be up and running.
The bill would also remove the power to periodically inspect the records of dispensaries from the Department of Health — and give that power to track dispensary records to the state police.
Hmm… Taking medical authority away from the Department of Health, and giving it to the cops. Doesn’t strike me as a grand idea.
In the four years since the Rhode Island General Assembly legalized the medical use of marijuana, the program has grown steadily.
As of January 19, there were 966 licensed marijuana growers and providers supplying the herb to 1227 patients approved by the Department of Health (are they going to turn patient approvals over to the cops, too?).
Medical marijuana approvals have been signed by 345 doctors across Rhode Island.
Interested parties can submit written comment to the Rhode Island Department of health for the next two weeks. After that, the department will make a decision on how to proceed with the amended statute. They can either file it as is with the Secretary of State, make minor changes, make major changes, or not file it at all.
If major changes are made, another public hearing will be required. If the bill isn’t filed at all, the Rhode Island’s current medical marijuana laws remain in effect.
If the statute is filed with only minor changes, it will become law after 20 days.