Some worried that dispensaries would mean the end of that culture, the corporatization of the movement, and prohibitive prices for weed — even with a sliding scale in place for the poorest of patients.
So there is a silver lining, perhaps, in the advent of a smaller-scale compassion center program: with less marijuana available at the dispensaries, elements of the mom-and-pop system — for good and for ill — seem likely to survive.
There is evidence, moreover, that a mix of these two approaches can work.
In New Mexico, the state allows patients to grow on their own. But it also licenses 23 small, non-profit producers to grow for patients. State government officials and advocates alike say the system, in the aggregate, produces enough marijuana to meet patient demand.
That was not always the case. Before a series of policy changes December 2010 — increasing the number of licensed producers and upping the limit on plants each can grow from 95 to 150 — there were significant supply problems. Patients would routinely buy up all the available marijuana within 24 hours of it hitting the market.
The program's relative stability up until that point, and its minimal problems with federal law enforcement, helped clear the way for a small, but significant expansion. Rhode Island advocates, looking forward, can only hope for something similar: a new, smaller system, that will lay the groundwork for something more.
David Scharfenberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.