Advocates push for a legal source in RI

Medical Marijuana
By IAN DONNIS  |  February 20, 2008

Medical marijuana proponents plan to seek General Assembly support this session to create an establishment, known as the Compassion Center, which, as the theory goes, would have state Department of Health backing to grow and distribute medical marijuana to approved patients.
While the outlook for such a measure remains uncertain — at minimum, it would likely have to overcome a gubernatorial veto — it would address the glaring shortcoming in Rhode Island’s medical marijuana law.
As it stands, registered medical marijuana users in Rhode Island have legal approval to smoke marijuana, but they are left on their own when it comes to obtaining what re¬mains an illegal narcotic.
The Phoenix recounted last spring (see “Who’s afraid of medical marijuana?” News, May 2, 2007) how this poses a danger for state-approved marijuana users, such as Bobby Ebert, who says he was assaulted in downtown Providence one night while trying to obtain marijuana. Faced with a debilitating illness, he nonetheless saw the quest as being well worth it. “After all,” he says, “I’ve got a disease that could kill me tomorrow.”
Jesse Stout, of the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition, says state Representative Thomas Slater (D-Providence) and state Senator Rhoda Perry (D-Providence) are expected to introduce the legislation, during the last week in February, to establish a distribution method for registered users of medical marijuana.
As he put in a recent e-mail, “The patients we represent have been asking us the same question — ‘Now that I can legally possess medical marijuana, where am I supposed to go get it?’ ”
The concept, Stout says, is for “a nonprofit Compassion Center to be licensed by the De¬partment of Health to grow and distribute marijuana to patients. The bill provides specific rules for how this independent Compassion Center will be regulated by the Department. Here at Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition, we think this bill is a good solution for patients who need safe access to this medicine, but don’t want to have to go to the criminal black market, and cannot grow it themselves because they are too sick or too poor.”
Considering the Ocean State’s status as a somewhat socially conservative state with a predominantly Catholic population, the General Assembly’s January 2006 approval of the state’s medical marijuana law, over a gubernatorial veto, may have seemed counter-intuitive.
Then again, it was the experiences of people such as Slater, who saw acquaintances facing illnesses as potential beneficiaries of medical marijuana, which helped to underscore support for the measure.
Stout is hopeful, pointing to public opinion surveys in support of medical marijuana in Rhode Island.
Yet approving the actual distribution of the drug — as opposed to just the concept — is a bolder step, and it remains to be seen if it will enjoy sufficient support.
Parts of this report were first posted February 11 at

Related: Who’s afraid of medical marijuana?, Backers of ‘compassion centers’ come up short, Politics of pain, More more >
  Topics: This Just In , U.S. Government, U.S. State Government, Health and Fitness,  More more >
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