Lawmakers shrink size of compassion centers

'Medical-marijuana sites should remain viable.'

Medical-marijuana dispensaries should be financially viable under the size limits passed by lawmakers last week, advocates of the centers say, even if the reduced scale will not meet demand for their services from patients. More

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GOVERNMENT

Lawmakers shrink size of compassion centers

'Medical-marijuana sites should remain viable.'

BLOOMBERG FILE PHOTO/MATTHEW STAVER
Posted 5/21/12

Medical-marijuana dispensaries should be financially viable under the size limits passed by lawmakers last week, advocates of the centers say, even if the reduced scale will not meet demand for their services from patients.

“I think it will be workable,” said Seth Bock, the founder of the proposed Greenleaf Compassion Center in Middletown, one of three organizations selected last year by the state to open dispensaries.

“With the new parameters to have caregivers sell excess [marijuana] back to the compassion centers, even with that smaller number of plants, it should be enough to get off the ground,” Bock said. “We will take it from there.”

The new dispensary limits, amending the state’s medical-marijuana law in a bill passed by the House on May 16 (after clearing the Senate earlier in the month) were designed to shrink the compassion centers below a size that would attract the attention of federal law enforcement.

After state officials selected Greenleaf, the Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center in Providence and Summit Medical Compassion Center in Warwick, Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee refused to issue licenses for them when he received warnings from federal prosecutors.

Chafee and state lawmakers, including bill sponsors Sen. Rhoda Perry, D-Providence, and Rep. Scott Slater, D-Providence, developed the dispensary size limits as a way to appease concerns from the U.S. Justice Department, including U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha, about large, commercial-scale, marijuana retail centers.

The amended legislation bars any Rhode Island dispensaries from holding more than 99 mature marijuana plants at any time, or 150 plants total, including seedlings.

It also establishes new regulations for the dispensaries, such as requiring criminal background checks for employees of the centers and allowing the state police to visit the facilities and recommend security plans.

To avoid black market sales and bolster the dispensary supply chain, the bill allows individual caregivers, who fulfill patient prescriptions for medical marijuana now, to sell any excess they have to a licensed dispensary.

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