Lawmakers agree on changes to medical marijuana law

EMPLOYEE Starr Smith helps a customer suffering from Multiple Sclerosis purchase medical marijuana at the Highland Health medical dispensary and wellness center in Denver, Colo.
Posted 3/2/12

PROVIDENCE – State lawmakers and Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee have agreed on changes to the state’s medical marijuana law they believe will allow three planned marijuana dispensaries to open.

The three Compassion Centers authorized in the state’s 2009 medical marijuana law and selected last March have been barred from opening because of concerns that federal authorities would target them or their patients.

A series of amendments sponsored by Sen. Rhoda E. Perry, D-Providence, and Rep. Scott D. Slater, attempts to protect the Compassion Centers by putting them under stricter state regulatory control, including limits from the Department of Health on how much of the drug they can grow, hold and sell.

“This is a good compromise that strengthens the safety of compassion centers,” Slater said. “We just want patients to get some relief, soon. While we believe the existing law is good, this change will make it better by making our centers less of an issue for the federal government. Nobody in Rhode Island would want to see patients get caught up in some federal raid or lose access to their medicine, and if these changes further minimize that issue, they are positive for patients.”

To address concerns about illegal sales, the changes allow registered patients or caregivers to sell excess marijuana to a compassion center.

Chafee said he supports the amendments in a news release Thursday afternoon.

“Since the Rhode Island medical marijuana law invited federal action, I have been working with advocates on a remedy,” Chafee said.

“I applaud Senator Perry and Representative Slater for their work and I look forward to passage of a bill that will avoid federal intervention and bring needed medicinal relief to those who stand to benefit.”

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