Senate OKs Medical Marijuana 

Senate OKs Medical Marijuana 
Posted by CN Staff on June 08, 2005 at 09:50:10 PT
By Joe Baker, Daily News Staff 
Source: Newport Daily News
Providence, R.I. --  In a powerful show of support, the Senate Tuesday voted 34-2 to allow Rhode Islanders to smoke marijuana to ease the symptoms of debilitating illnesses.The vote came a day after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that federal laws against marijuana use trump states' medical marijuana laws. The decision overturned a 2003 federal appeal court ruling that California's medical marijuana law prevented federal law enforcement officials from prosecuting those with marijuana prescriptions.
Sponsored by Sen. Rhoda E. Perry, D-Providence, the legislation would direct the Department of Health to issue licenses to patients diagnosed with "a debilitating medical condition," including cancer, glaucoma, AIDS, Hepatitis C, multiple sclerosis, Crohn's disease and Alzheimer's disease.Qualifying patients would be able to grow up to 12 marijuana plants or possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana without fear of state prosecution. The bill also would exempt two "primary caregivers" who would help the patient procure marijuana.The Senate amended the bill to title it the Edward O. Hawkins Medical Marijuana Act in honor of Perry's nephew, who suffered for several years before dying of AIDS in 2004. Marijuana might have eased her nephew's "morphine induced dementia" and "ever-present pain," Perry said.The bill also was changed to exempt practitioners, nurses and pharmacists from prosecution if they discuss the benefits or health risks of smoking marijuana with their patients.Rep. Thomas C. Slater, D-Providence, the sponsor of the House version of the legislation and a cancer survivor, was overjoyed with the lopsided vote."This isn't about federal court rulings," Slater said. "This is about compassion for people who need help."Slater said his bill will be amended to mirror the Senate bill and he expects the House Health, Education and Welfare Committee to pass the bill, possibly next week.If the full House follows suit it will have to do so by a veto-proof margin since Gov. Donald L. Carcieri has vowed to veto the bill if it reaches his desk. Carcieri is taking no position on the medical benefits or health risks of smoking marijuana, his spokesman Jeff Neal said. The governor's objections are all on legal grounds, Neal said."This would give Rhode Islanders a false sense of security, placing them in jeopardy of federal prosecution," Neal said, noting the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling Monday.Neal said the bill also "has a number of very significant loopholes," including one that would direct the Department of Health to issue without discretion a license to any qualifying nonprofit organization allowing it to grow and distribute marijuana.Finally, Carcieri is concerned that state law enforcement officials would be placed in an untenable position because they are supposed to uphold federal laws.Karen O'Keefe, legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C., said she was "thrilled" by the overwhelming Senate vote, but disappointed by Carcieri's vow to veto the bill. The Supreme Court ruling did not change anything, O'Keefe said, because medical marijuana patients already were subject to federal prosecutions."I think that's heartbreaking," O'Keefe said of the governor's pledge to veto the bill. "That is not the best thing to do for the patients."The Senate also rejected an attempt to change the bill to make it illegal for anyone to drive a car, plane or boat if they have even a trace of marijuana in their system. The amendment, sponsored by Sen. Leonidas P. Raptakis, D-Coventry, was killed by a 29-4 vote.Sen. Charles J. Levesque, D-Portsmouth, said police can arrest anyone suspected of being under the influence of either liquor or drugs if there is evidence they cannot operate a car, boat or plane.If the bill passes, Rhode Island will become the 11th state to legalize medical marijuana. Complete Title: Senate OKs Medical Marijuana But Governor Says He Will Veto Bill Source: Newport Daily News, The (RI)Author: Joe Baker, Daily News Staff Published: Wednesday, June 08, 2005Copyright: 2005 Newport Daily NewsContact: Editor NewportRI.comWebsite: Articles & Web Sites:Marijuana Policy Project Marijuana Information Links Senate Approves Proposal To Legalize MMJ Approves Medical Marijuana Bill Confessional Appeal for Medical Pot
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