Rhode Island Celebrates 10 Years of MMJ

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AR-160729654 (1)More than just weed at Providence cannabis fest

The Providence Journal-Karen Lee Ziner-7/23/16

PROVIDENCE — The Medical Cannabis Festival on Saturday featured soundtracks from Bob Marley and the Grateful Dead as people perused the merchandise. Hand-blown, $250 art-glass pipes, wooden “pot pockets,” funky jewelry and a display poster for “Train Wreck Strain” of marijuana.

But beyond the paraphernalia and free prizes lay serious concerns — and information — about accessible, affordable medical marijuana for people in need. People with such qualifying conditions as cancer; HIV/AIDS; multiple sclerosis; hepatitis C; epilepsy; and — newly legislated in Rhode Island — post-traumatic stress disorder.

Sponsored by the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition (RIPAC), Saturday’s festival on Bell Street on the West Side marked the 10th anniversary of Rhode Island’s medical marijuana (MMj) program.

“This year has been challenging,” said RIPAC executive director Joanne Leppanen, referring to legislative battles at the State House. “It’s always challenging. But this is about people’s medical needs. Look at all the people who have been helped. It’s time to reflect and see how far we’ve come.”

At various booths, event-goers could learn growing advice from plant experts, meet with representatives of Rhode Island’s three licensed compassion centers, learn how to connect with caregivers, and get information about Rhode Island’s evolving medical marijuana law — enacted in 2006.

Derek Cloutier said marijuana helps alleviate the PTSD he suffers as a result of his tour of duty in Iraq. Cloutier’s PTSD is easily triggered.

He sees a car in a breakdown lane and his mind leaps to hidden explosive devices. Certain smells, barking dogs can plunge him into a nightmare.

“Things that happened around certain traumatic events, whether it’s sniper fire, machine guns, mortars … If you’re in a firefight, if something’s happening around you and there are certain smells — it’s going to be ingrained in your brain,” Cloutier said.

Cannabis “takes away that ‘crazy mind,'” and allows him to focus, and calm down. He has been able to come off all other medications, including anti-depressants, he said.

Magdalena Andreozzi, who is an MMj card holder, said she stopped in “to learn what’s going on with medical marijuana and medicinal marijuana use in the state of Rhode Island. I’m here to educate myself and listen to other people about what’s happening, and where we’re headed.”

But it wasn’t all about public policy and legal issues. There were hot dogs on the grill, and chair massages on a blistering hot day. And buying opportunities.

Jonathan Foster’s merchandise featured an array of colorful pipes, including glass lobster claw pipes from Maine and the “Mick Jagger” pipe — lips with a tongue sticking out.

And “PAX”, a $279 vape pipe that comes in a white box reminiscent of Apple products.

Foster noted, “It’s the IPhone of vaporizers.”

 

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