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Just past maybe…..

RI lawmakers to take up marijuana dispensary rules

The Gov will take the lead from the Feds......Narahona said no, there's your answer. -UA

PROVIDENCE, R.I.—Rhode Island's state-licensed marijuana dispensaries could open within months, but they may not last long if the state adopts strict rules on the amount of marijuana they can have, medical marijuana advocates said Tuesday.

State lawmakers are set to review a proposed compromise on Wednesday that was crafted to let the three state-picked dispensaries to open, potentially within six months. Gov. Lincoln Chafee, an independent, blocked the dispensaries from opening last year after the state's top federal prosecutor warned they could face prosecution.

The compromise seeks to avoid federal intervention by setting limits on the amount of marijuana the dispensaries could have. But medical marijuana supporters said the dispensaries must be allowed to have enough marijuana on hand to meet demand. Otherwise, they might not be able to pay their bills, said JoAnne Leppanen, director of the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition.

"Everybody wants this to happen," she told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "But the fear is that we're going to come in too low, that we're going to put such a burden on the compassion centers that it may not be possible for them to sustain themselves."

It would be up to the state's Department of Health to set the limits once lawmakers approve the compromise. The Health Department plans to hold public hearings on the regulations once the bill passes.

Lawmakers who brokered the compromise with Chafee said it's designed to be flexible. If federal authorities again threaten to prosecute, the limits on the dispensaries could be tightened. If the dispensaries complain the limits are too strict, they could be relaxed.

"The challenge was getting a bill that will pass," said Sen. Rhoda Perry, D-Providence. "Yes, some of these details may be problematic. But we're moving ahead."

Perry said she hopes the General Assembly can pass the legislation quickly to allow the dispensaries to open, perhaps within six months.

The uncertainty means the dispensaries must plan to open without knowing how much marijuana they will be allowed to dispense.

Seth Bock, chief executive of the Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center of Portsmouth, said he'd like lawmakers to suggest a rough idea of how much marijuana would be allowed. The state could fine-tune the restrictions later, he said.

"Give us something in the law that allows us to move forward," said Bock, who practices acupuncture and Chinese medicine. "Without any guidance on volume it's impossible to decide if it's worth investing X amount of money to get this off the ground."

Greenleaf is one of the three dispensaries chosen by the state. The other two are the Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center in Providence and Summit Medical Compassion Center in Warwick.

On Monday, U.S. Attorney for Rhode Island Peter Neronha said federal authorities have not endorsed the compromise and remain opposed to large-scale commercial operations for medical marijuana.

In his letter to the state last year, Neronha warned that while patients wouldn't face prosecution, dispensary operators might.

Rhode Island enacted a law in 2006 allowing patients to legally possess small amounts of marijuana to treat conditions including chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures and multiple sclerosis. In 2009, lawmakers passed legislation to set up nonprofit dispensaries -- known as compassion centers -- where patients could obtain marijuana in a state-regulated environment.

More than 4,400 Rhode Islanders are now enrolled in the state's medical marijuana program.

George DesRoches said the dispensaries will play a critical role in the state's medical marijuana program by giving patients a safe and reliable place to purchase their medicine. The 45-year-old Providence man grows his own marijuana to treat chronic pain and fibromyalgia.

Earlier this month four men held him at gunpoint and stole marijuana and his laptop computer. DesRoches said Tuesday that the dispensary compromise is good news, but he's waiting to see how the state decides to regulate the facilities.

"I'm pretty jaded at this point," he said. "I'm hopeful they can find a way to do it, but if you set people up to fail, they will."

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RI Says ‘KIM’ to Chafee!

Patient advocates call for Chafee to license R.I. medical-marijuana dispensaries

01:00 AM EDT on Wednesday, September 28, 2011

By W. Zachary Malinowski

Journal Staff Writer

PROVIDENCE — Patients and advocates in the state’s medical-marijuana program rallied at the State House Tuesday to voice their frustration and disappointment in Governor Chafee for failing to issue licenses to three marijuana dispensaries that are permitted under Rhode Island law.

Speaker after speaker stepped up to the lectern outside the chambers of the General Assembly and reminded the small crowd of about 30 supporters that the governor has been dragging his feet for 149 days. That was when the Health Department announced that it had selected three businesses to sell marijuana to patients registered in the state program.

The dispensaries are: the Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center in Providence, Summit Medical Compassion Center in Warwick and Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center in Portsmouth.

They hoisted signs that read, “Hey Chafee Which State Law Will You Ignore Today,” and “69% of Rhode Islanders Support Compassion Ctrs; 36 % Support Chafee. Wake Up Governor.”

JoAnne Leppanen, executive director of the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition, said that patients and advocates are so fed up with Chafee’s inertia that they are exploring the possibility of filing a lawsuit against him.

“We are going to appeal to the judiciary and see if a judge will order the governor to issue the licenses,” she said.

She said that they have spoken with representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union about taking legal action against Chafee. Steven Brown, executive director of the ACLU’s local affiliate, attended the rally. He said that Chafee should end the delays.

“There is nothing preventing the governor from issuing these licenses,” he said.

Christine Hunsinger, Chafee’s communications director, did not respond to requests for a comment.

A few weeks after the Health Department announced the selection of the three dispensaries last spring, Peter F. Neronha, the U.S. Attorney for Rhode Island, sent Chafee a letter, warning him that if he issued the licenses, the operators and anyone affiliated with the new businesses could face criminal and civil action.

Neronha’s letter was identical to letters that other federal prosecutors sent to governors in states such as Maine, Vermont and New Jersey that passed laws permitting the establishment of marijuana dispensaries.

Neronha’s threat caused Chafee to place plans to issue the licenses on hold. He and members of his staff said they wanted to study the issue further, and get clarification from the Justice Department in Washington.

Chafee’s decision didn’t sit well with the operators of the three dispensaries in Rhode Island. The growing number of patients in the program, now about 4,000, also were furious. They said that they have to turn to drug dealers, or go without marijuana, to cope with debilitating illnesses such as chronic pain, nausea from cancer treatment, insomnia and neurological problems.

The patients and advocates also point out that Maine, Vermont, Delaware, New Jersey and the District of Columbia have ignored the federal threats and are pressing ahead with plans to open dispensaries. At least two are open for business in Maine and, in New Jersey, Gov. Christopher J. Christie, a former U.S. Attorney, said two months ago, “It’s a risk that I’m taking as governor.”

Rep. Scott A. Slater, D-Providence, the son of Rep. Thomas C. Slater, D-Providence, the late legislator who championed the legalization of marijuana, said it’s time for Chafee to pull the trigger. He said the issue has been “reviewed and researched” enough. He said that he will not entertain any suggestion from Chafee that the General Assembly revisit or change state marijuana laws.

“The needs of the patients are more important than threats from the federal government,” Slater told the crowd. “I hope the governor and his team will give you the respect you deserve.”

Under the current system, licensed caregivers are the only ones in the state who can legally grow marijuana for patients in the program. That number has grown to about 2,500, but many patients have disagreements with their caregivers over pricing, or sometimes, the crops simply go bad.

As a result, they cannot get the marijuana for medicinal purposes. The compassion centers would ensure that the drug is always available.

Leppanen, RIPAC’s top official, said that this summer’s humidity and the power disruption from Tropical Storm Irene damaged a large portion of the caregivers’ crops. She said the delays in issuing the dispensary licenses “is causing real stress. Real pain.”

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More chaffing every day….

Gov. Chafee Stalling On Rhode Island Medical Marijuana Compassion Centers

by Robert Capecch

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.

Marijuana Dispensaries JarMeanwhile, 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.

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Slow motion in RI


Catharine Leach: Chafee too slow on marijuana centers

providence journal 03 August 2011

Governor Chafee needs to stand-up for sick and dying Rhode Islanders -- not confessed murderers.

While Chafee takes all the time in the world to make up his mind about marijuana dispensaries, people are suffering, putting off life-saving chemotherapy and radiation treatments (because they can't survive it without medical marijuana), and even putting themselves at risk trying to find medicine on the black market.

Also consider the impact of this delay on the business interests that are now paying rent for empty space, incurring huge bills for equipment and start-up costs, etc.

There is a huge backlash forming for his lack of leadership on this issue. He took the seat of governor knowing this was what his voters and the citizens of Rhode Island want, and now that he's in power he is a lame duck.

His obvious lack of a sense of urgency over this issue, which truly is an issue of compassion and simply following the laws of Rhode Island, is disturbing, and I hope voters will remember this when election time comes again.

Catharine Leach

The writer is a blogger for and is a contributing writer for Releaf Magazine.

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Scared, Chafee takes steps to NOT open dispensaries in RI

Update: Chafee puts hold on RI medical-pot centers

2:37 PM Mon, May 02, 2011 tracy breton projo

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Governor Chafee announced Monday that he has "placed a hold" on the state's medical marijuana dispensary program in light of a warning issued by the U.S. Attorney here that he might prosecute or take civil action against the centers and anyone involved with them.

The owner of one of those planned centers said in response that he was disappointed, but hopeful that Chafee would be able to work with other governors to remove the threat that could prevent their opening. And Rhode Island's attorney general said he had no plans for state prosecution of the centers or those associated with them.

State Sen. Rhoda Perry, D-Providence, who was the prime sponsor of Rhode Island's medical-marijuana dispensary statute, called Chafee's action "appropriate" in light of statements U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha has made intimating that he would raid the dispensaries if they were open.

"I don't know where this comes from," Perry said of Neronha's views of the dispensaries. "It is quite bothersome to me."

But she said "maybe there may be something we might be able to amend in our current law" before the end of this session that would address the Justice Department's concerns. "There are thousands of people who need the substance and need it in a legal way."

Six weeks ago, the state Health Department tentatively approved licenses for three such dispensaries to open in Rhode Island. The three have been planning to open this summer.

But on Friday, Neronha, in a letter hand-delivered to Chafee's office, threatened to take action against against those involved with the "compassion centers" if they open. Andon Sunday, in an interview with The Providence Journal, the U.S. Attorney said he hoped the dispensaries don't open because he considers them to be large-scale for-profit cannabis production centers that are against federal law.

One of the approved dispensaries estimates that it will be serving 8,000 patients and taking in $25 million in revenue by 2013, Neronha pointed out.

Chafee, in a press release issued by his deputy press secretary Christian Vareika, said that "during this hiatus, I will be consulting with the governors of other states with similar medical marijuana programs, with federal officials and with the compassion center applicants themselves."

He noted that "none of Rhode Island's compassion center applicants have received a certificate of registration to date. In light of the United States Attorney's articulated position on closing compassion centers, seizing proceeds and prosecuting business enterprises that market and sell medical marijuana, I have placed a hold on the state's medical marijuana certificate of registration program."

The three planned state-approved dispensaries are Summit Medical Compassion Center, in Warwick; the Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center, in Providence; and Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center in Portsmouth.

Seth Bock, chief executive officer of Greenleaf, just got his building permit Monday from the Town of Portsmouth to start constructing his dispensary; he'd planned to open in August in the Portsmouth Industrial Park on High Point Avenue. But now, he says, he is going to hold off on starting construction on the 1-story, 6,000-square-foot building until he gets more assurance from the state that the dispensary program can legally go forward.

"it wouldn't make sense to start construction now if they're going to pull the plug on the entire program," he said.

Bock, an acupuncurist and herbalist, said Greenleaf has spent "tens of thousands of dollars" on plans for his facility, the health department registration process, attorneys' fees "and thousands of dollars in unpaid effort to build a perfect model of how to run a compassion center."

While disappointed in Chafee's announcement today, which he referred to a "a little bit of a surprise," he said "it's understandable that the governor would want to research this a little bit more.

"In my opinion, Rhode island has crafted a program that we feel the Department of Justice would want to stand behind, as opposed to the types of dispensaries that are in the media a lot in California and other states out in the Wild West."

Rhode Island, Bock said, built its program in an attempt to comply with Department of Justice concerns. "The Department of Health put together a compassion center program where on Page One we're defined as a 'caregiver operation.' When you look at the volume of medicine, we;re just a natural extension of the current caregiver program."

Bock said he was "a little surprised" that no one in Chafee's office, the Health Department or the General Assembly had conferred with Neronha before approving applications for the compassion centers. But he added, "It seems to me that the Rhode Island General Assembly feels as though this is a states' rights issue. They knew federal law banned marijuana" when they enacted medical-marijuana laws and approved dispensaries. "We feel they'd done their due diligence in working with the local chapter of the Department of Justice."

Bock said that he is optimistic that compassion centers will open in Rhode Island and that some consensus will be forged between state and federal authorities regarding the legality of them.

"I feel strongly that we are going to prevail on this. I think Chafee is signalling by his action today that he is reaching out to try to build a consensus with other governors, and hopefully this will be a turning point with the governors being on board to bring this to the national level and start to create change."

He said he planned "to continue to fight for the rights of these patients who really need this drug in a safe, controlled environment."

The Health Department, which has been in charge of soliciting and approving applications for the dispensaries, said it would have no comment Monday on the medical-marijuana program, which currently serves more than 3,350 patients in Rhode Island.

Annemarie Beardsworth, spokesperson for the department, said: "All inquiries on this topic are being handled by the Governor's Office."

The state's new attorney general, Peter F. Kilmartin voted while a member of the Rhode Island House to allow medical marijuana and create state-licensed dispensaries for its distribution. He said today through a spokeswoman that the question of their legality is not something his office intends to pursue.

"The general's position is that this doesn't fall under the purview of this office," said Amy Kempe, Kilmartin's press officer. "We uphold state law, and state law has carved out an exception for medical marijuana and compassion centers. Our office cannot prosecute [the dispensaries] so long as individuals and the compassion centers are operated within the boundaries of state law.

"Our office would not have authority to prosecute ... but that does not stop the federal authorities," Kempe emphasized. "This is a conflict between state law and federal law."

However, Kempe said that Kilmartin plans to introduce a bill this legislative session that would "tighten up the current medical-marijuana laws." She declined to be more specific.

Senator Perry said, "It didn't appear to us that our legislation would be looked upon as an interstate commercial activity" that the federal government would pounce on.

"To our view," she said, "we've designed a tightly regulated approach so that patients can receive a quality product through a legal mechanism."

Governor Chafee is in North Carolina today at a conference on education, and then he will sit in on a discussion with four other past governors of Rhode Island.

Read the full statement from Governor Chafee:

"May 2, 2011

"Statement from Governor Lincoln D. Chafee Regarding Compassion Centers

"The United States Attorney for the District of Rhode Island delivered a letter to me on Friday afternoon which was copied to the Director of the Department of Health and the three Compassion Center applicants. That letter, as well as similar letters sent to officials in other states, clarified the Department of Justice's position on medical marijuana. The Department of Justice previously indicated that it would not focus its limited resources on doctors and their sick patients who prescribe and use marijuana if such use was permitted by state law. This position was interpreted by some states as giving them latitude to authorize medical marijuana cultivation and distribution programs. Friday's letter makes it clear that DOJ will now pursue certain commercial cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana, even if such cultivation and distribution is permitted by state law. Compassion centers, their owners, landlords, financiers and other operations "facilitators" are identified as potential targets of federal law enforcement activities.

"None of Rhode Island's compassion center applicants have received a certificate of registration to date. In light of the United States Attorney's articulated position on closing compassion centers, seizing proceeds and prosecuting business enterprises that market and sell medical marijuana, I have placed a hold on the State's medical marijuana certificate of registration program. During this hiatus, I will be consulting with the governors of other states with similar medical marijuana programs, with federal officials and with the compassion center applicants themselves."

Christian Vareika
Deputy Press Secretary
Communications Office of Governor Lincoln D. Chafee
State House Room 109

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Finding marijuana prescribing doctor now the hard part

07:58 AM EDT on Tuesday, April 5, 2011
By Tracy Breton

Journal Staff Writer
PROVIDENCE — Last month, the Department of Health gave the go-ahead for the opening of three medical marijuana dispensaries that were authorized in large part to give patients a safer and more accessible way to obtain what the federal government still classifies as an illegal substance.

But the opening of the dispensaries may not necessarily make it easier for patients to get marijuana. Thanks to a law enacted by the General Assembly in the waning days of last year’s session, most information about the medical-marijuana program, including the names of doctors who certify patients for marijuana-use cards, is now secret.

As a result, patients who want to obtain medical-marijuana are depending on word of mouth to find a doctor in Rhode Island who’s willing to certify their need.

“They’re not going to be able to find them in the Yellow Pages, that’s for sure,” says Steven R. DeToy, spokesman for the Rhode Island Medical Society.

There are currently 465 doctors who have certified 3,351 patients for the five-year-old medical-marijuana program but, since the Health Department and the Medical Society are prohibited from making referrals, they’re telling patients to go to the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition (RIPAC), the support group for medical-marijuana patients.

But RIPAC doesn’t give out doctors’ names to people who come to the group.

“That would hurt us. Most doctors don’t want to be identified as marijuana docs,” says the organization’s executive director, Joanne Leppanen. “So it’s a very serious problem right now. We can’t give out a list of doctors without their permission.”

If a patient comes looking for a referral, “we tell them to ‘Go to the doctors who’ve managed your pain in the past.’ But many doctors are not comfortable with cannabis.”

The 2010 change in the law that now makes it illegal — punishable by up to 180 days in prison and a $1,000 fine — for any government official to disclose marijuana doctors’ names was supported by some of the state’s most passionate open-government advocates: Sen. Rhoda E. Perry, D-Providence; Rep. Edith Ajello, D-Providence; and the Rhode Island Affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union.

“The original intent of the law [that took effect in 2006] was that physicians would receive the same degree of confidentiality as they would when prescribing any other kind of medicine for any other type of patients,” Perry explained in a recent interview.

But not every lawyer who read the law felt the confidentiality provisions were all that clear.

Early last spring, when a reporter for The Providence Journal asked the Health Department for the names of all physicians who’d certified patients for medical marijuana — and the number of patients each had certified — Bruce McIntyre, a veteran legal counsel for the department, decided that while the law clearly made patient and caregiver names confidential, it did not do the same for names of the doctors. So last March, the department released the names of the 355 doctors who’d at that point signed certifications. The reporter began calling some of the doctors. A front-page story was published. Listed in the story were the names of 21 doctors who’d certified at least 10 of their patients.

An uproar ensued. Doctors started calling the Medical Society, the Health Department and Perry to complain. The ACLU, the Medical Society, the Rhode Island State Nurses Association and RIPAC wrote a joint letter to Dr. David Gifford, then-director of the Health Department, excoriating the department’s release of the doctors’ names.

“Our organizations are writing to express our deep distress and concern over your department’s recent significant breach of confidentiality under the state’s medical-marijuana law,” the letter began. “There can be little question about the impropriety of the department’s actions … it is indisputable that the list of names the department released came directly from the ‘supporting information submitted by qualified patients,’ information that is designated ‘confidential’ in no uncertain terms.”

But in reply, McIntyre said the “protected list” only applied to patients and their caregivers. If there was an interest in protecting the confidentiality of physicians as well, the law needed to be amended and the Health Department would support the change, he wrote.

An amendment to the law was quickly drafted and in rapid-fire fashion passed both chambers and became law last June — without then-Gov. Donald Carcieri’s signature. It makes clear that any information about specific medical-marijuana patients, their doctors and caregivers were exempt from disclosure under the state’s public records act.

“It had a really chilling effect,” Perry said of publication of the physicians’ names.

One doctor whose name was published because he’d certified 100 patients isn’t approving anyone for the program anymore. He’s put up a large sign in his office announcing this to his patients.

Annemarie Beardsworth, spokeswoman for the Health Department, said some doctors were upset at the publication of their names “because they do not want to be viewed as ‘pot docs.’ I think some are also aware that there are some very opposing opinions about the medical-marijuana program. I think if you look at the entire patient population, there are probably some patients in your practice opposed to medical marijuana.” Doctors, Beardsworth said, don’t want to perhaps “risk losing those patients” who are opposed to medical marijuana.

Dr. Todd E. Handel, a Pawtucket physiatrist who specializes in pain intervention, says he’s been practicing for 12 years and that there is a stigma attached to certifying patients for medical marijuana. About 5 percent of the patients he sees ask him to approve them for the program but he says he signs off on only about 2 percent. He says he’s not “a pot doc” but a real doctor, and real doctors “don’t want to have a practice that involves just writing for medical marijuana. All of us fear we’re going to have the type of practice you see on TV where every 15 minutes, patients are coming in just to have a medical-marijuana certificate.”

Handel said there are other reasons physicians were upset over the publication of their names: fear that the federal government would take action against their licenses or their medical-malpractice insurance would be canceled if an insurer found out they were certifying patients to use marijuana. “It’s difficult to assess patient risk” for medical-marijuana because unlike other controlled substances, you don’t prescribe dosage or have any way of monitoring patient use or misuse of the drug, Handel said in an interview. He says he’s made it clear to RIPAC that he doesn’t want any referrals.

Rhode Island is among several states that make the doctors’ names secret. But in California, doctors who approve patients for medical marijuana are falling over each other advertising their services –– in storefronts, fliers and over the Internet.

Condition Number Pct.
Agitation related to Alzheimer’s disease 3 0%
Seizures, including epilepsy 31 1%
AIDS or treatment 37 1%
Glaucoma or treatment 39 1%
Positive status for HIV or treatment 97 2%
Cachexia or wasting syndrome 112 3%
Hepatitis C or treatment 210 5%
Cancer or treatment 218 5%
Severe nausea 262 7%
Severe and persistent muscle spasms 720 18%
Severe, debilitating, chronic pain 902 22%
Other 1,392 35%
Total conditions cited 4,023 100%
Note: Some conditions overlap

Source: RI Department of Health as of 3/18/2011

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Marijuana legislation to be debated at State House today

1:13 PM Wed, Mar 16, 2011  Philip Marcelo  PROJO
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Two key committees of the state House of Representatives on Wednesday will take up a host of proposals regulating marijuana. One bill, sponsored by Rep. Edith H. Ajello, D- Providence, would legalize, regulate and tax the drug. Another bill, sponsored by Rep. Rene Menard, D-Lincoln, would tax the soon-to-be-opened medical marijuana dispensaries that will be licensed and regulated by the state to grow and sell the drug. And still another bill, submitted by Rep. John G. Edwards, D-Tiverton, would decriminalize possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, making it a civil offense subject to a $150 fine. Consideration of the bills, a number of which have been introduced in years past, come close on the heels of two significant developments in the state-sanctioned medical marijuana industry. Last Tuesday, Governor Chafee unveiled his first budget, proposing a surcharge equal to 4 percent of a compassion center's "net patient revenue" as well as a new 6-percent sales tax on the retail sale of medical marijuana. The governor estimated the state can generate more than $1.35 million in new revenue from the proposed marijuana taxes and surcharges in the fiscal year that begins July 1. This Tuesday, the state Department of Health announced the first three recipients of a state license to open a marijuana dispensary. The applicants were chosen among 18 other non-profit organizations. The House Finance Committee will take up Ajello and Menard's proposals at a hearing at 1 p.m. The House Judiciary Committee will take up the Edwards proposal and four other marijuana-related bills following the regular afternoon House session at 4 p.m. Among those four other bills, which have all been submitted by Rep. Roberto DaSilva, D-East Providence, are proposals to give landlords the right not to lease an apartment to a person who intends to grow medical marijuana and a proposal to make a second offense of possession of marijuana a misdemeanor.

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Department of Health Announces Decision on Compassion Center Applicants

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) today announces that 3 of the 18 applicants have been approved to apply for registration certificates to run a compassion center. The three applicant(s) selected are Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center, Inc.; Summit Medical Compassion Center; and The Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center.

“After a thorough and thoughtful review of all applications, HEALTH determined that these three applicant(s) were best able to offer safe, conveniently located options for patients currently enrolled in the medical marijuana program,” said Interim Director of Health Michael Fine. “ HEALTH is charged with protecting the health and safety of all Rhode Islanders. We will continue to work with the compassion centers and providers to assure good outcomes for patients.”

Before opening for business, a compassion center must be inspected by HEALTH staff and receive a certificate of occupancy from the respective municipality where it is located. In addition, all staff, board members and volunteers of each compassion center must be registered with HEALTH’s medical marijuana program. For the complete rules and regulations pertaining to compassion centers, visit

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