Marijuana dispensaries to begin selling Jan. 1
The three-year wait for marijuana dispensaries in Rhode Island is about to end. The state Health Department is currently in the final stages of revising the original legislation approving medical marijuana dispensaries, meaning that the Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center in Providence; Summit Medical Compassion Center in Warwick and Greenleaf Compassionate Care in Portsmouth can soon submit their licensing applications. Spokesmen for Greenleaf and Slater expect to begin selling marijuana by Jan. 1.
Gov. Lincoln Chafee signed state-licensed marijuana dispensaries into law in May; three years after Rhode Island originally authorized dispensaries in 2009. The three-year delay was primarily the result that the original legislation contained loopholes that may have invited unwanted federal involvement.
Under the revised legislation, the dispensaries will now be able to grow up to 99 mature marijuana plants and stock a maximum of 1,500 ounces of marijuana at any given time. There are presently about 4,500 patients enrolled in the state’s medical marijuana program.
RI lawmakers approve medical marijuana plan
The measure now heads to Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who is expected to sign it into law. Once that happens dispensaries could be open within several months.
Under the bill, dispensaries would be allowed to possess up to 1,500 ounces of marijuana. The proposal would also allow law enforcement to inspect dispensaries and give the state police a seat on the board overseeing the facilities. All three provisions were added to assuage the concerns of federal authorities.
“This is a work in progress,” said the bill’s House sponsor, Rep. Scott Slater, D-Providence. “There are caps in place. ... I think once people see these compassion centers up and running and helping so many people, they’ll be proud.”
The House voted 64-7 Wednesday to pass its version of the legislation. It then approved the Senate version, too, sending the proposal to Chafee’s desk.
Three state-authorized dispensaries were planning to open last year when Rhode Island’s U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha warned they could face criminal prosecution for violating federal drug laws. Chafee halted the process, and then worked with lawmakers this year on the compromise.
While supporters are optimistic, there’s no guarantee the new rules will satisfy federal authorities.
After the Senate approved its version of the bill last week, Neronha issued a statement indicating that the U.S. Justice Department remains concerned about “large-scale commercial cultivation and distribution” of marijuana. Neronha warned last year that while patients wouldn’t face prosecution, dispensary operators might.
More than 4,400 Rhode Islanders are now enrolled in the state’s medical marijuana program.
State law allows 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 compassion centers where patients could obtain marijuana in a state-regulated environment.
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.
Catharine Leach: Chafee too slow on marijuana centers
providence journal 03 August 2011
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.
The writer is a blogger for CannabisCulture.com and is a contributing writer for Releaf Magazine.
Medical Marijuana Growers May Still Be Prosecuted, Justice Department Says
Feds still shooting rhetoric garbage.........-UA
By Joel Rosenblatt - Jun 30 bloomberg.com
The U.S. Department of Justice remains committed to prosecuting large-scale cultivation, sale and distribution of marijuana, even in states that have enacted legislation permitting the use of the drug for medical uses, according to a Justice memo obtained by Bloomberg News.
The June 29 memo, from Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole to U.S. attorneys, says a 2009 memo issued by Deputy Attorney General David Ogden -- referred to as the “Ogden Memo” -- remains in effect.
The Ogden letter advised prosecutors that enforcement efforts against people using marijuana to treat cancer or other serious illnesses in accordance with state laws may not be “an efficient use of federal resources,” according to Cole’s memo. The Ogden memo was “never intended to shield” larger scale cultivation, Cole wrote.
“Within the past 12 months, several jurisdictions have considered or enacted legislation to authorize multiple large- scale, privately operated industrial marijuana cultivation centers,” according to the June 29 memo. “Some of these planned facilities have revenue projections of millions of dollars based on the planned cultivation of tens of thousands of cannabis plants.”
State laws or local ordinances are “not a defense” to civil or criminal prosecution of such cultivation, according to the memo.
Lawmakers say Chafee wants to avoid federal action
Common 'Linc set a precedent!-UA
01:00 AM EDT on Wednesday, June 1, 2011 By W. Zachary Malinowski projo
PROVIDENCE — Two state legislators met with Governor Chafee on Tuesday for an update on the state’s plans to license three compassion centers to sell marijuana to patients in the state medical-marijuana program.
Sen. Rhoda E. Perry and Rep. Scott A. Slater, both Providence Democrats, emerged from Chafee’s office following a 15-minute meeting in the State House. They felt that Chafee was supportive of the program to provide medical marijuana to those suffering from chronic pain and other illnesses, but the governor wants to make sure that the state doesn’t make a wrong move and subject the dispensary owners and investors to federal prosecution.
Slater and Perry want to get clarification on the risks from Sen.Sheldon Whitehouse.
“We don’t know anything,” Perry said. “We really need to get more information from the senator.”
The legislators met with Chafee for the first time since Peter F. Neronha, U.S. Attorney for Rhode Island, sent a letter to the governor’s office on April 27, saying that he might prosecute or take civil action against the centers and anyone affiliated with them. Neronha’s letter came just a few weeks after the state Department of Health announced that it had selected three dispensaries to sell medical marijuana in the state.
In response to Neronha’s threat, Chafee “placed a hold” on the dispensary program.
Similar missives were issued in several of the other 15 states that permit medical marijuana and have established, or are considering establishing dispensaries.
Among them are Maine and Vermont.
In early April, the first dispensary on the East Coast opened in Frenchville, Maine, in a raised-ranch house near the Canadian border. Two others were scheduled to open last week in Auburn and Ellsworth, Maine. A woman who answered the telephone at the Remedy Compassion Center in Auburn said that the business was open to patients “registered in the Department of Health and Human Services” medical-marijuana program.
She referred other questions to the owner, Tim. He did not return two phone messages.
In Vermont, the state House of Representatives and Senate have approved legislation that will allow the opening of four dispensaries.
Gov. Peter Shumlin, who sponsored a similar bill in the Senate last year, is expected to sign it, despite a letter from Tristram J. Coffin, the U.S. Attorney in Vermont, who sent a letter to lawmakers that was almost identical to the one Neronha sent to Chafee. Coffin said the dispensaries are drug-trafficking enterprises and would be subject to federal prosecution.
Claire Richards, Chafee’s chief legal counsel, has been the governor’s point person on the medical-marijuana dispensaries. She has had several conversations with Neronha, and she participated in a conference call with governors attending the National Governors Association in North Carolina.
She said that she is especially concerned about a federal prosecutor in Washington who has threatened to prosecute state workers involved in the regulation of the state’s marijuana-dispensary program. She also said that at least one private dispensary in Montana is suing the federal government for raiding its establishment.
Montana’s program, unlike Rhode Island’s, is not regulated by the state.
Richards said that she has also met with Seth Bock, owner of the Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center in Portsmouth, and Terence Fracassa, legal counsel for the Summit Medical Compassion Center in Warwick. They were two of the three applicants selected to run dispensaries in Rhode Island.
The other was the Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center in Providence, named after Representative Slater’s late father. He, along with Perry, championed the legalization of medical marijuana in Rhode Island. In 2009, Perry sponsored legislation that allowed the state to open up to three medical-marijuana dispensaries, also known as compassion centers.
Richards also has met with JoAnne Lepannen, executive director of the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition, an organization that works hand-in-hand with the medical-marijuana program and its patients.
Slater and Perry said that they hope to have a second meeting with Chafee in two weeks.
“I think there’s a lot of misinformation out there,” Slater said. “[Chafee] wants to see what the other states are doing.”
Former PC basketball player faces felony marijuana charges
01:00 AM EDT on Wednesday, May 18, 2011
By W. Zachary Malinowski PROJO
There has to be more to this story......plant counts? 3 felony counts for being a 1/2 oz over personal medicine limits? but hes a caregiver...86.1 grams is in his limit? Confused. -UA
PROVIDENCE — Corey Wright, a former captain of the Providence College basketball team, was charged on Tuesday with three felony drug charges for allegedly running a large-scale marijuana-growing operation from two apartment buildings that he owns in the city.
Providence police, armed with warrants, searched three of Wright’s properties at 184-186 Allston St., 25 Hazael St., and 67 Alaska St. The police seized 85 grams of marijuana and $35,000 in cash from the Hazael Street address where Wright lived on the first floor.
The apartment house is located between Douglas Avenue and Admiral Street.
At his arraignment Tuesday in District Court, Providence, Scott A. Lutes, Wright’s defense lawyer, argued that his client should be released on bail because he is a patient in the state’s medical-marijuana program. Under state law, a patient is allowed to have up to 2½ ounces of marijuana, or approximately 72 grams of the drug, in his or her possession.
The police said that they seized a total of 86.1 grams.
Inspector Jay Andrews, a police prosecutor, argued that Wright was running a significant “grow operation,” and should be held without bail. He was charged with possession of marijuana with intent to deliver, manufacturing marijuana and conspiracy to manufacture marijuana.
Lutes countered that Wright, 37, is not a flight risk. He said that Wright is a property owner in the city and has a degree from Providence College. He also pointed out that he has a license to use and grow marijuana.
“It may very well turn out that he did nothing wrong,” Lutes said.
Judge Colleen Hastings sided with the police and ordered Wright held without bail, pending a hearing on May 27.
Wright, who grew up in New York City, was a tri-captain for the Friars in the late ’90s. The undersized guard, who is only 5-foot-7 inches tall, was a tenacious defender and fearless competitor.
After college, Wright remained in Rhode Island and worked at the state Training School as a juvenile program worker.
Kevin Aucoin, acting director of the state Department of Children, Youth and Families, said that Wright was hired on Aug. 1, 1999, and went out on a workers’ compensation leave of absence on April 15, 2009. He said that the agency will review his arrest and job status.
“We are clearly going to be looking into it,” he said. “Once we get our information, we will assess what options we will pursue.”
The police conducted surveillance on Wright in the weeks leading to his arrest on Monday at his apartment house on Hazael Street off River Road in the city’s Valley neighborhood.
At that address, investigators reported, they found three bags of marijuana in a downstairs closet, $35,000 in cash locked in a cabinet, a digital scale and plastic bags with receipts.
The police also seized Wright’s BMW sedan that was parked in the driveway. At the police station, investigators discovered that Wright had $2,780 in his possession.
Afterward, they executed a second search warrant at the Allston Street apartment house. There, they allegedly found a large marijuana-cultivation operation that included an intricate grow system with fertilizer, timers, wiring, tools and water-filled buckets. On the kitchen wall was a laminated copy of Wright’s medical-marijuana card as well as the card of a patient that he supplies with marijuana.
The police say that Wright also has a caregiver’s license.
Under state law, a patient can grow up to 12 plants, while a licensed caregiver can grow up to 24 plants for a maximum of five patients.
In a second-floor apartment, the police said they found more equipment used to grow, spin and dry harvested marijuana.
The police also executed a third search warrant at another Wright apartment house at 67 Alaska St., but they did not find any evidence of marijuana cultivation or other illegal activity.
Upon completion of the searches, the police contacted the city’s Code Enforcement Department to inspect the Allston Street apartment house for “substandard and potentially dangerous wiring."