Medical-Marijuana User: Patient Protection Needed
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Medical-Marijuana User: Patient Protection Needed
Posted by CN Staff on April 19, 2010 at 20:06:52 PT
By W. Zachary Malinowski, Journal Staff Writer 
Source: Providence Journal
East Providence, R.I. -- Kenneth J. Berube was one of the first patients who was approved for the state’s medical-marijuana program, to deal with an anxiety disorder and other ailments that have prohibited him from working.But the issuance of the license that allows him to legally smoke marijuana has brought a host of unexpected problems.
Over the past 3˝ years, Berube has gone through eight caregivers, or licensed suppliers of marijuana, and he suspects that some of them are illegally dealing the drug. He said that he knew all of them and dropped them after he had disputes with them over increases in the price of marijuana.He has learned that at least two caregivers, including one who once supplied him with marijuana, have forged his name on license applications and, as a result, have been approved to grow marijuana for medicinal purposes. Berube said that he hasn’t seen any of the marijuana that’s supposed to be coming his way, and he believes the caregivers are using and/or selling the drug for profit.“I feel it’s a form of patient abuse,” said Berube, 44, who lives in Parkway Towers in East Providence. “There’s no protection for the patients and no guidelines to deal with the shady providers.”Berube said that he met twice with a state trooper at the Lincoln barracks in March and told him about the forged signatures. He has yet to hear what, if anything, the state police are going to do about it.David S. Neill, commander of the state police detective division, said that he was not aware of the complaint, but he vowed that it would be turned over to the department’s narcotics division for a possible criminal investigation.“I think this is one of the problems with the [Health Department’s] system,” Neill said. “There are just a lot of unanswered issues.”Neill and ranking officers in the Providence Police Department have been highly critical of the program because they believe that there are too many loopholes that allow criminals to take advantage of the Health Department’s nonexistent enforcement of the law.The Health Department has no one to check on the caregivers’ marijuana-growing operations.Furthermore, law-enforcement officials say, the program is shrouded in secrecy and they are not provided with the names of the licensed patients or caregivers.Annemarie Beardsworth, Health Department spokeswoman, provided data showing that the number of licensed patients and caregivers have tripled in the past two years. Today, there are 1,562 patients and 1,240 caregivers, while, on Dec. 30, 2008, there were 561 patients and 458 caregivers.She said only two, a patient and a caregiver, have had their licenses revoked — one for getting arrested and convicted of a crime, and the second person for growing more than the allowed number of marijuana plants.Beardsworth said that the increase in numbers is probably the result of more publicity surrounding the program and more doctors prescribing medical marijuana. She said that the surge has led to increased administrative demands in processing applications and issuing licenses with photo identifications.In July 2006, Berube was issued his state identification card to legally smoke marijuana. The law allows patients with debilitating medical conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, HIV and chronic pain to possess up to 12 marijuana plants or the equivalent of 2.5 ounces of marijuana at any one time. They may also select up to two caregivers to provide the drugs, as long as those caregivers have no felony drug convictions.Registered caregivers can possess up to 24 marijuana plants and five ounces of marijuana for qualifying patients to whom the caregiver is connected through the state Health Department’s registration program.Berube said that he met several of his past caregivers at meetings hosted by the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition. He said that he has worked out arrangements to have marijuana delivered to his apartment. He said that he smokes about an ounce to an ounce-and-a-half each month.Berube said that in March 2009 he first learned from a clerk at the Health Department that his name had been forged on a caregiver’s license. He said that he had never heard of the man who had been using the license for about 10 months. He said that he complained to Health Department officials but they told him that there was nothing they could do.This past March, he learned about a second licensed caregiver who forged his signature to obtain permission to grow marijuana. Again, he notified a clerk at the Health Department about the problem.Berube said that he spoke last week to Charles Alexandre, chief of health professionals regulation, who oversees the medical-marijuana program. He said that Alexandre told him that his hands were tied because Health Department officials have nothing to do with enforcing the law.Health Department spokeswoman Beardsworth, citing privacy laws, would not comment on whether Berube has spoken to Alexandre about the forgery allegations. Speaking in general terms, she said that complaints of criminal wrongdoing are referred to the police.***Legalization Poll:Los Angeles --  Few people see legalized marijuana as a way to boost the economy and create jobs, according to an Associated Press-CNBC poll.About a quarter of those polled said legalized marijuana would lead to more jobs in their communities; 57 percent said there would be no effect. About a third think the economy would improve, while 46 percent foresee no impact.People younger than 30, the group most apt to favor legalization, were most likely to see marijuana as a way to help the economy.If marijuana was decriminalized, more Americans favor private businesses selling it (54 percent) than the government (36 percent). But just 24 percent said they would be interested in investing in a company that sells marijuana. -- Associated PressSource: Providence Journal, The (RI)Author: W. Zachary Malinowski, Journal Staff Writer Published:  April 20, 2010Copyright: 2010 The Providence Journal CompanyContact: letters projo.comWebsite: URL: Medical Marijuana Archives 
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