RI ACLU urges Chafee to issue marijuana certificates
Smallest state. Loudest voice. POWER TO THE PATIENTS. -UA
Thomas J. Morgan 5/4/11 projo.com
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The Rhode Island affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday urged Governor Chafee to proceed with issuing certificates of registration to three medical-marijuana dispensaries approved by the state Department of Health, despite “a threatening letter” last week from U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha suggesting that those dispensaries may be criminally liable under federal law.
Steven Brown, ACLU executive director, said in a news release that holding up issuance of the registrations, as Chafee did on Monday in response to the threat of criminal prosecution, “is directly contrary to state law and, in any event, is not mandated in any way by Mr. Neronha’s disturbing letter.”
In October 2009, Brown said, a U.S. Department of Justice memo relating to state medical marijuana laws, and relied on by Neronha, advised U.S. Attorneys that, “as a general matter,” they “should not focus federal resources … on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana,” while “prosecution of commercial enterprises that unlawfully market and sell marijuana for profit continues to be an enforcement priority of the Department.” (emphasis added by Brown)
The ACLU letter to the governor notes that state law requires that the dispensaries approved by the Department of Health be non-profit organizations.
Thus, since the dispensaries are “in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana,” and they are not involved in “unlawfully market[ing] and sell[ing] marijuana for profit,” the ACLU said, “these dispensaries should not be a federal enforcement priority and the letter should not be a basis for undoing the will of the General Assembly and the carefully considered work of the Health Department.”