R.I. House & Senate To Hear Medical Marijuana Bill

  R.I. House & Senate To Hear Medical Marijuana Bill

Posted by CN Staff on March 22, 2005 at 07:31:40 PT
By Mary-Catherine Lader  
Source: Brown Daily Herald 

Rhode Island -- As two bills in support of medical marijuana use approach hearings in the state legislature, sponsors say the current incarnation of the Rhode Island Medical Marijuana Act has garnered greater support than in any previous year.The bill's stated purpose is "to protect patients with debilitating medical conditions, and their physicians and primary caregivers, from arrest and prosecution, criminal and other penalties."
Qualifying medical conditions include cancer, multiple sclerosis, AIDS and illnesses that cause severe symptoms alleviated by marijuana use, such as nausea or seizures. Sufferers and their caregivers would be allowed to acquire and cultivate the drug as well as possess relevant paraphernalia.District 3 State Sen. Rhoda Perry P'91, a Democrat who has been a continual proponent of the measure, introduced the bill in the Senate Feb. 17 along with four other sponsors. It will be heard before the Judiciary Committee, on which she sits, in mid-April.Nine states - Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington - currently allow the use of medical marijuana. If the legislation passes, Rhode Island will join Vermont and Hawaii as the only states to change the law legislatively rather than through voter initiative.Although marijuana use remains illegal under federal law, according to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, 99 out of 100 marijuana arrests are made under state law. The bill states that for this reason, "changing state law will have the practical effect of protecting from arrest the vast majority of seriously ill people who have a medical need to use marijuana."Similar bills sponsored last year failed to pass in either chamber of the state legislature.This year, Perry said she is "somewhat sanguine of its passing our committee with more than 50 percent" of the votes, but she was reluctant to explicitly predict its ultimate success.In the House, District 10 State Rep. Tom Slater, a cancer survivor himself, is the lead sponsor of an identical bill. Introduced March 1, the House bill has the support of 50 of 75 assembly members.Slater and Perry said increased legislative support was partly due to a 2004 Zogby poll that found 69 percent of Rhode Islanders in favor of the legal use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. "The majority of people in Rhode Island feel medical marijuana should be up to individual patients and his or her physician and the Department of Health," Perry said.Trevor Stutz '07, president of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, said evidence of overwhelming support in Rhode Island warrants the bill's passage.If a voter initiative is required to pass the bill in Rhode Island, "then it would be an utter failure of the political system to carry out the wishes of its people," Stutz said.No legislators have publicly spoken against the measure since its introduction, but the opposition of a few legislators is known within the capitol, Slater said, adding that most of those against medical marijuana are law enforcement officials. "They think it will open up the market (for drugs) to everyone," Slater said.But Perry said there is evidence that the tides of opposition in the Senate may be changing."In past years, we have had some opposition from ... (two) former members of public safety," Perry said. "It's interesting that this year I have both those people not only on board the bill but signed on as sponsors."Perry said permitting medical use of marijuana is not part of a larger agenda. "I don't agree with legalizing marijuana," Perry said. "When you're smoking that substance for pain, it's very different. You don't become an addict."The Department of Health would evaluate patients' eligibility based on medical records and subsequently issue them a "registry identification card," thereby protecting them from arrest for marijuana use.Neither Perry nor Slater would speculate on what action they expect Republican Governor Donald Carcieri '65 to take. When the bill was last presented to the legislature, Carcieri said he would neither veto nor sign the bill. Perry hopes this year's bill will pass with three-fifths support from the legislature - the total necessary to override a possible veto. Support for the bill extends beyond the Statehouse, thanks in part to the effort of Brown students. Nathaniel Lepp '06, executive director of the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition, has been gathering support among the state's medical community and patient advocacy organizations. The resulting RIPAC coalition now includes the R.I. State Nurses Association, R.I. Medical Society, AIDS Project R.I. and the American Association for Family Physicians."One of the main purposes of RIPAC is to rally supporters who are willing to testify," Lepp said. Testimony may come from patients who would benefit from the drug, doctors in support of prescribing it and an administrator from Oregon involved in the implementation of similar legislation.SSDP has supplied RIPAC with volunteers and assisted in soliciting this testimony, Stutz said, adding he has called Rhode Island doctors and asked them to support the bill. Both Perry and Slater said the greatest public response to the bill has come not from their constituents, but in e-mails sent in opposition from out of state. These e-mails, which follow a single format and contain the same language, argue the act will increase use among adolescents.To address the concern of increased adolescent use of the drug, a subsection of the bill specifies that patients under 18 can only qualify for use if their parents consent and then serve as caregivers, monitoring dosage and frequency. For many of its sponsors, the legislation has personal significance. "(This bill) means relief," Slater said. "I have cancer myself. I know the effects, and when people say there's not much pain, well, they don't know what they're talking about."Perry said her advocacy of medical marijuana was largely triggered by her nephew's struggle with AIDS. Perry said both she and her sister suggested he use marijuana, but that her nephew refused."When you are dying like my nephew was, to be released from horrible throes of nausea allows a person to interact with his environment, to interact with loved ones and to take part in life," Perry said. Newshawk: MayanSource: Brown Daily Herald, The (Brown, RI Edu)Author: Mary-Catherine Lader Published: March 22, 2005Copyright: 2005 The Brown Daily HeraldContact: letters browndailyherald.comWebsite: Articles & Web Sites:SSDP Marijuana Information Links Believes There's Support for Marijuana Marijuana Bill Gains Legislative Support Marijuana in Rhode Island

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Comment #5 posted by FoM on March 22, 2005 at 11:42:03 PT
Medical Marijuana Introduced in Rhode Island 
 Take Action Now! Friends:NORML is pleased to announce that Senate Bill 710, The Rhode Island Medical Marijuana Act, which would legally protect medical marijuana patients, has been introduced in the Rhode Island Senate. Now is the time to contact your state elected officials and urge them to stop arresting medicinal marijuana patients.Last year efforts to legalize medical marijuana made great strides in the State Legislature, gaining both legislative support as well as endorsements from numerous state health organizations. NORML is confident that this year's bill will receive legislative hearings and has a realistic chance of passing into law. An identical companion bill is pending in the Rhode Island House. NORML will keep you informed as these bills make their way through the legislature.Senate Bill 710 seeks to ensure that medical marijuana patients who grow and possess cannabis will no longer have to fear arrest or prosecution from state law enforcement. However, this bill will only receive serious consideration if Rhode Island's elected officials hear an unmistakable message of support from their constituents.Please take two minutes of your time to write your state Senator and tell him or her how important it is that they support medical marijuana. NORML has created pre-written letters that you can send to your legislators by visiting: you for your help.Sincerely,Kris Krane, Associate Director NORML
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on March 22, 2005 at 11:12:01 PT

Thank you for the compliment. I agree what MPP and NORML are doing is very important. We need to keep our eyes on where the issues are as they are happening. We don't need to learn after the fact at least now with the Internet and activism growing like it is. I am keeping my eyes on Mrs. Schiavo's case and so far the judge is saying no intervention. I don't know if in the next few days it might turn around but the right of freedom is being addressed and they have even mentioned medical marijuana and assisted suicide. Maybe the judges will listen this time in the Raich case. I sure hope so.
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Comment #3 posted by Sam S on March 22, 2005 at 11:09:40 PT:

Fortunately, since I smoke to alleviate pain I'm not addicted to cannabis. What a joke. It's the pain of listening to people talk about "reefer madness" as fact and the pain of hearing one more idiot talk about "sending the wrong message to the kids". Spare me. There are many huge wrong messages we're sending to the kids having nothing to do with responsible smoking.Sam S 
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Comment #2 posted by dongenero on March 22, 2005 at 11:04:25 PT

importance of our community
The following line underscores the importance of what FoM does here and the work of MPP, NORML and other reform groups:"Both Perry and Slater said the greatest public response to the bill has come not from their constituents, but in e-mails sent in opposition from out of state. These e-mails, which follow a single format and contain the same language, argue the act will increase use among adolescents."The antis are tireless zealots determined to run rough shod over my rights and yours. We have to stay well above the radar on the issue and drive it home relentlessly.As for Sen. Perry, thanks to her for taking the political risk of doing the right thing and proposing medical cannabis legislation. Her addiction comment was certainly idiotic though.
Unfortunately, getting elected to office tends to inflate the ego and make politicians think something intelligent will come out whenever they open their mouths.
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Comment #1 posted by billos on March 22, 2005 at 10:30:52 PT

.............Perry says..................
permitting medical use of marijuana is not part of a larger agenda. "I don't agree with legalizing marijuana," Perry said. "When you're smoking that substance for pain, it's very different. You don't become an addict."How soothing to know another expert Senator has explained the difference that makes people addicts. According to this woman, if you smoke it for medicine you don't get "addicted" but if you smoke it for recreation you become an addict.
Another moron in power.
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