Chafee puts hold on medical marijuana centers

GOV. LINCOLN D. CHAFEE has placed a hold on the state's medical marijuana certificate of registration program in light of the federal Department of Justice's stance that it will close the centers.
Posted 5/2/11

PROVIDENCE – Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee said Monday he has put a hold on the state’s medical marijuana certificate of registration program after receiving notice that it could violate federal law.

The news comes after the U.S. attorney for the district of Rhode Island told the governor in a three-page, hand-delivered letter on Friday that the state law establishing up to three medical marijuana centers could lead to civil and criminal prosecution.

Chafee explained that the letter “clarified” the U.S. Department of Justice’s position on medical marijuana.

“The Department of Justice previously indicated that it would not focus its limited resources on doctors and their sick patients who prescribe and use marijuana if such use was permitted by state law,” Chafee said in a news release.

“This position was interpreted by some states as giving them latitude to authorize medical marijuana cultivation and distribution programs.”

Compassion centers and their involved parties – landlords, financiers and other “facilitators” – have been identified as potential targets of federal law enforcement activities, even if cultivation and distribution is permitted by state law.

Chafee said he has placed a hold on the certificate of registration program, “in light of the U.S. Attorney’s articulate position on closing compassion centers, seizing proceeds and prosecuting business enterprises that market and sell medical marijuana.”

None of the three Rhode Island’s compassion centers selected by the R.I. Department of Health in March – the Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center, the Summit Medical Compassion Center and the Thomas Slater Compassion Center – have received a certificate of registration yet.

The governor said he will consult with governors of other states with similar medical marijuana programs, federal officials and the compassion center applicants.

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