Case Against NJ Medical Marijuana User Dismissed
By Joe Klare
Charges against a New Jersey man who was busted last year for a small amount of marijuana have been dismissed due to the state’s lack of rules regarding its medical marijuana law. Since David Barnes says he was using marijuana to treat a medical condition, the judge and prosecutor in the case decided to dismiss the charges.
Mr. Barnes uses cannabis to treat cyclic vomiting syndrome which causes him to vomit for no reason. He’s been to over 50 doctors and tried every conceivable medication. Marijuana is the only thing that helps.
Thankfully it seems that while NJ politicians haggle over the rules and deny patients a way to legally buy cannabis, the court system may step in to cut sick people some slack. Every successful case creates a precedent, and medical marijuana patients in this country can use every precedent they can get.
Three Brown alums — Lee Golini '03, Matthew Madison '05 and Jose Florentino-Reyes '08 — have applied to open a medical marijuana compassion center in North Kingston. Submitting one of 18 applications for at most three compassion center licenses, the alums proposed to create the Chronic Pain Management Center. The state Department of Health will decide on the applications March 8.
Golini, who is listed as the center's founder on its application, said he wants to open it because patients "can't depend on the current caregiver system" for procuring medical marijuana. Under the current system, medical marijuana patients can choose a caregiver to grow their marijuana and provide them a certain amount. Critics charge that this system is not adequately regulated by the state government.
Golini said most patients cannot afford to pay the street value for medical-grade marijuana, which is $400 to $500 per ounce. If his center's application is approved, it will be able to sell medical marijuana at $280 per ounce, Golini said. He said he expects to serve 600 patients and projects annual revenue of $2 million by the center's third year of operation.
In comparison, the application for Summit Medical Compassion Center anticipates raising $25 million and serving 3,000 patients in its third year of operation .
The proposed Chronic Pain Management Center would be located in North Kingston, while its facility for growing the drug would be located in Cranston. Golini said he chose North Kingston because he wanted to provide access to a compassion center in a location where there were no other applicants.
The location has generated controversy. Jared Moffat '13, president of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, said Rep. Doreen Costa, R-North Kingston and Exeter, had not been contacted to seek her opinion on the proposed compassion center.
Moffat said Costa expressed concern at the Feb. 7 public hearing on the compassion center applications that her constituents would be apprehensive about having a center in their town. "It's irresponsible to have one if it's not okay with the local community," Moffat said.
Moffat said he thought Costa is particularly opposed to Golini's application because the Chronic Pain Management Center logo pairs an image of a cannabis leaf with an anchor, Rhode Island's emblem.
JoAnne Leppanen, executive director of the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Center, confirmed that the potential locations for Chronic Pain Management Center have raised opposition.
But the state Department of Health prefers applicants to specify proposed locations. The department is looking for applicants with determined locations, so that a proposed compassion center can open immediately if approved, she said.
The department can award up to three licenses for compassion centers under a 2009 state law. It will decide on this round of applicants 30 days after the public hearing that occurred in February.
During the first round of applications in September 2010, the department rejected all applications because they were either for-profit or exceeded the application page limit, said Annemarie Beardsworth, spokeswoman for the Rhode Island health department.
Leppanen said her main concern is the delay in the review of applications for compassion centers. "This should have happened by 2009," she said.
Though Maine's law authorizing compassion centers passed after Rhode Island's, its state government has already handed out licenses for compassion centers, Leppanen said. But because of local opposition, Maine's compassion centers have been unable to begin operations, she said.
"People in Rhode Island are pretty well-educated about the program," she said, adding that most towns and cities have been supportive of the centers. Warwick has written two letters of support to the Department of Health, and Providence and Fordsmith have not expressed any concern, she said.
Compassion centers are a distinct improvement over the current system, according to Moffat.
With the caregiver model, it is easier for medical marijuana to be sold illegally because the state does not monitor the number of caregivers and the number of plants they grow, Moffat said.
"With the compassion centers, it will be more apparent if they are selling through the back door," he said, adding that as long as the applicants want to set up compassion centers as non-profit operations, Students for Sensible Drug Policy fully supports the service.
01:00 AM EST on Wednesday, February 16, 2011
By Philip Marcelo
Journal State House Bureau
PROVIDENCE –– A Providence lawmaker has again submitted a bill that would phase out the practice of using individually licensed suppliers, known as caregivers, to grow or keep marijuana for patients, as well as close what he says are significant loopholes in the state’s medical-marijuana laws.
The proposal, which state Rep. John M. Carnevale, D-Providence, submitted on Tuesday, would require that, effective Jan. 1, 2013, the growing and selling of medical marijuana would be allowed only in state-sanctioned dispensaries known as compassion centers.
The state Department of Health is in the process of selecting the group that will open the state’s first such center.
Under the current medical-marijuana law, a patient legally allowed to use marijuana can either grow the plant at home (up to a maximum of 12 mature plants) or he or she can designate a “caregiver,” an individual who is licensed to grow marijuana in larger quantities (up to 24 mature marijuana plants). A caregiver can only provide marijuana for up to five registered medical-marijuana patients.
Carnevale says his bill, which he first submitted last year, would address the abuse and crime that have plagued communities since the enactment of the Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act in 2006.
Last year, Carnevale, along with fellow retired Providence police officer and former state Rep. Joseph Almeida, submitted the bill close on the heels of a Providence Journal story about Orlando Martino, a Providence man with a record of drug arrests who, at the time, was seeking to have drug-possession charges dismissed based on his approval, months after his arrest, for a medical-marijuana card.
Martino pleaded no contest in June 2010 to a single felony count of possession of marijuana and was sentenced to two years, of which 3 months would be served in the Adult Correctional Institutions in Cranston, and 21 months suspended.
Carnevale argues that in the months since, medical-marijuana-related crimes — from armed break-ins to house fires related to growing marijuana indoors to caregivers and patients illegally growing and selling marijuana for profit — have increased.
“We can’t control what happens in individual homes,” he said Monday. “What it has created is a dangerous situation for the law-abiding citizens in our neighborhoods.”
Like last year’s version, Carnevale’s bill would also amend the law between now and when the caregivers would be eliminated from the medical-marijuana pipeline.
One such proposal would bar the state from registering anyone with a capital offense or felony drug conviction as a caregiver. Another would repeal the law that currently allows registered patients and caregivers to share marijuana with other registered patients or caregivers, as long as no money is exchanged.
“If we’re treating it like a medicine, why are we letting people swap it back and forth? Do we let patients swap Vicodin?” he said.
Other significant changes include having the state police, rather than the Health Department, conduct regular inspections and records reviews at compassion centers. The bill, which has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee, would also allow for a majority, rather than all, of the principal officers and board members of a compassion center to be Rhode Island residents.