RI Gov. signs bill decriminalizing marijuana
June 13, 2012 boston.com
Chafee announced the signing Wednesday night after the General Assembly ended its formal session. Chafee, an independent, had been expected to sign the bill into law.
Adults caught with an ounce or less of marijuana would face a $150 civil fine. Minors would also have to complete a drug awareness program and community service.
The previous state law made possession of small amounts of marijuana a misdemeanor. Violators had faced possible jail time and fines up to $500.
Fourteen other states have decriminalized possession of limited amounts of marijuana.
Medical Marijuana Vote Set for Today
Dan McGowan, GoLocalProv News Editor
Members of the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare today are expected to vote on legislation that would allow medical marijuana compassion centers to open Rhode Island.
The House bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Scott Slater (D-Dist. 10, Providence) and the Senate version is sponsored by Sen. Rhoda Perry (D-Dist. 3, Providence). The bills amend “The Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act.”
The General Assembly first approved legislation to create compassion centers in 2009, but Governor Chafee ordered a temporary halt to the licensing process last year when the federal government suggested it might begin targeting the centers or patients using their services.
But as a result of an agreement reached earlier this year between legislative leaders and the governor, Slater and Perry were given the green light to continue to move compassion centers forward. The bill would clear the way to allow three compassion centers to open while protecting them from being shut down or raided by federal agents.
Chafee Will Sign Bill
Governor Chafee, who faced criticism from those in the medical marijuana community for deferring to the federal government, has indicated he will sign Slater and Perry's legislation into law if it is approved by the General Assembly.
“Since the Rhode Island medical marijuana law invited federal action, I have been working with advocates on a remedy,” Chafee said earlier this year. “I applaud Senator Perry and Representative Slater for their work and I look forward to passage of a bill that will avoid federal intervention and bring needed medicinal relief to those who stand to benefit.”
Bill Regulates Limits on Growing Amount
The legislation will allow the Department of Health to regulate limits on the amount of marijuana that a compassion center may grow and possess, since the magnitude of the marijuana and the resulting income it generates for privately run compassion centers appears to be a key element of concern for federal officials. It also allows registered patients or caregivers who grow up to their allotted maximums, but do not need the entire amount for themselves or their patients, to sell the excess to a compassion center, as long as the limits of the grower and the purchasing center are not exceeded. That provision is designed to address concerns about the illegal sale of excess marijuana.
“This is a good compromise that strengthens the safety of compassion centers," Slater said earlier this year "We just want patients to get some relief, soon. While we believe the existing law is good, this change will make it better by making our centers less of an issue for the federal government. Nobody in Rhode Island would want to see patients get caught up in some federal raid or lose access to their medicine, and if these changes further minimize that issue, they are positive for patients."
The three centers that were already approved by the Department of Health after a public bidding process to be licensed will be able to operate under the new limits, so it is expected the centers will be able to open quickly upon passage and enactment of the legislation.
“Our main concern is getting compassion centers up and running for the many suffering patients who still have no legal way to obtain their prescription medicine,” said Senator Perry. “It’s been three years now since we approved compassion centers. That’s a long time for patients to wait for relief from pain and illness. We already have three legitimate organizations that have been approved and are ready and willing to serve Rhode Island’s patients and the quicker we move on these amendments, the less time Rhode Island’s sick and dying will spend suffering."
Chafee files petition to reclassify marijuana
PROVIDENCE, RI (WRNI) - Governor Lincoln Chafee is teaming up with the governor of Washington in an effort to change the way the federal government classifies marijuana. They're calling on the Drug Enforcement Administration to consider the drug medically beneficial.
In a telephone conference call, Governor Chafee and Governor Chris Gregoire said they've filed a petition to change marijuana from a schedule I drug,which means it has no accepted medical use, to a schedule II drug, which means it could be sold in pharmacies.
The two governors say they're filing the petition out of frustration- they've both halted medical marijuana dispensary programs in their states because of letters from U.S. Attorneys, warning that the stores are subject to federal raids.
Governor Gregoire says she hopes the DEA will handle the request quickly. A similar petition was rejected this year, nine years after the initial filing.
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Update: Chafee puts end to medical marijuana dispensaries
5:31 PM Thu, Sep 29, 2011
W. Zachary Malinowski projo.com
Who has 2 thumbs and guaranteed unemployment next term? That guy......-UA
The decision comes after five months of delays and indecision by Chafee's office on how they willl proceed with issuing licenses to three dispensaries that were selected by the state Department of Health last spring.
"After much internal and external discussion and research, I have decided that the State of Rhode Island cannot proceed with the licensing and regulation of medical marijuana compassion centers under current law,'' Chafee said in a statement.
Thousands of patients in the state program had been awating the opening of the dispensaries, hoping that they would have a safe, secure and reliable place to buy the drug to cope with ailments like cancer, glaucoma and chronic pain.
Continue to the next screen to read Chafee's full statement:
After much internal and external discussion and research, I have decided that the State of Rhode Island cannot proceed with the licensing and regulation of medical marijuana compassion centers under current law.
This has been a difficult decision. I believe that patients with debilitating medical conditions such as cancer, glaucoma and AIDS should have safe, reliable and well-regulated access to marijuana for therapeutic purposes. Rhode Island has a card and caregiver law currently in place for distributing medical marijuana to patients in need. I have met with and heard from advocate groups and patients that this existing system has serious flaws. In 2009, in an effort to address these flaws, the General Assembly passed a new law authorizing the cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana through three state-registered and regulated compassion centers. The Governor's constitutional duty is to implement laws passed by the General Assembly and I take that obligation very seriously.
Unfortunately, Rhode Island's compassion center law is illegal under paramount federal law. And, while the United States Attorney in each district is given some discretion in the local enforcement of federal laws, I have received communications from both the United States Department of Justice and from the United States Attorney for the District of Rhode Island that large scale commercial operations such as Rhode Island's compassion centers will be potential targets of "vigorous" criminal and civil enforcement efforts by the federal government. I cannot implement a state marijuana cultivation and distribution system which is illegal under federal law and which will become a target of federal law enforcement efforts. Federal injunctions, seizures, forfeitures, arrests and prosecutions will only hurt the patients and caregivers that our law was designed to protect.
I remain committed to improving the existing medical marijuana cultivation and distribution system in Rhode Island. I am hopeful that the General Assembly will introduce new legislation in the upcoming session that will address the flaws in, and indeed make improvement to, the existing medical marijuana card and caregiver system while not triggering federal enforcement actions. I pledge to work with advocates, patients and members of the General Assembly towards that end.
Gov. Chafee Stalling On Rhode Island Medical Marijuana Compassion Centers
by Robert Capecch theweedblog.com
It’s been nearly four months now since Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee (I) decided to place a hold on his state’s compassion center program. Concerned that individuals involved in the compassion centers and state employees acting in compliance with the law would be targeted and prosecuted by federal officials, the governor has since refused to grant certificates of operation to the three entities previously chosen by the state health department to operate the centers. It’s time Gov. Chafee ends his hold and fully implements the compassion center program in Rhode Island.
Gov. Chafee’s initial fear that state employees would be prosecuted, or even threatened with prosecution, by the federal government for performing job duties consistent with a medical marijuana law should have been put to rest recently. In a motion-to-dismiss a suit challenging the Arizona medical marijuana program, a Department of Justice attorney argued that Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s claims were frivolous, in part because she could point to no “genuine threat that any state employee will face imminent prosecution under federal law” and that she “can point to no threat of enforcement against the State’s employees.” Likewise, there have been no threats by the DOJ that Rhode Island state employees would face federal charges for performing their duties under their medical marijuana program.
Additionally, Gov. Chafee can find inspiration and assurance from the actions of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) who recently announced his intention to fully implement New Jersey’s medical marijuana law. Gov. Christie stated that, as a former U.S. Attorney, he sees no reason why his state’s medical marijuana program would invite federal interference. Rhode Island’s law is similar to New Jersey’s in that it allows for only a finite number of dispensaries to serve the patient population, making it easier for the state to adequately regulate the industry.
Meanwhile, medical marijuana patients in Rhode Island lack the safe, immediate, and regulated access to their medicine that so many of their peers in other states have. When the Rhode Island General Assembly approved of compassion centers, they did so because they understood that a regulated supply system is preferable to patients accessing their medicine via the criminal market. Seemingly, Gov. Chafee understands this as well. However, his refusal to issue the operation certificates, despite the lack of an imminent threat of federal prosecution, not only hurts the patients, but also calls into question his respect for the laws passed by the legislative branch of Rhode Island.
The role of the governor is to execute the laws of a given state, not to block duly enacted legislation from being implemented. The legislature of Rhode Island overwhelmingly approved of compassion centers, as do the people of Rhode Island. Gov. Chafee recently refused to hand over a confessed murderer to the feds because, under federal law, the murderer could face the death penalty. Gov. Chafee points out that it is the public policy of his state to avoid the death penalty. I’d like to point out that a compassion center program, even though that too runs contrary to federal law, was a debated and enacted public policy decision of his state. The governor should respect his legislature, stand up for his constituents, and fully execute the laws of his state by issuing compassion center certificates of operation immediately.