General Assembly Debates Modifications of MMJ Law
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General Assembly Debates Modifications of MMJ Law
Posted by CN Staff on May 19, 2010 at 20:24:39 PT
By Katherine Gregg, Journal State House Bureau 
Source: Providence Journal
Providence, RI  -- Marijuana growers went to Smith Hill on Wednesday to protest the potential loss of their state-licensed cottage industry as committees in the House and Senate took up separate bills to deal with Rhode Island’s four-year-old medical-marijuana program.First, a Senate committee approved a bill to shut off public access to all information about the program, including the names of the doctors responsible for providing the vast majority of the marijuana-use cards to 1,200-plus Rhode Islanders for ailments ranging from late-stage cancer to migraines and anxiety.
The vote was unanimous after one senator, who also is a pharmacist, assailed the Department of Health’s “twisted logic” in making the doctors’ names public earlier this year, and the victim of a 2001 accident that left him with six herniated disks, and years of residual pain, said it took him years to a find a doctor willing to approve his use of marijuana and now that doctor is telling him he will never do that again out of fear his name will get out.Meanwhile, in the House, a group of close to three dozen people — that thinned as the night wore on — waited for hours to testify against a separate bill that, as they read it, would not only ban the licensing of home-based marijuana growers after 2012 when the state envisions having three privately owned, but state-regulated medical-marijuana dispensaries up and running, but also ban the patients from growing the plants themselves.The bill was introduced by two state lawmakers — who are retired Providence police officers — to close what they see as loopholes in the state’s medical-marijuana law that allowed a man with a long criminal record to obtain a marijuana-use card from the state Department of Health months after his latest arrest on drug charges.The case, known as State of Rhode Island versus Orlando Martino, is still winding its way through the court system, with Martino’s lawyer seeking a dismissal of all of the charges pending against him — including a marijuana-possession charge from last August — on the grounds that the same law that enabled him to obtain a medical-marijuana card insulates him from prosecution.Representatives Joseph Almeida and John M. Carnevale have said they support the state’s effort to allow marijuana use by sick patients, but believe that the current law governing who can grow the drug and who can use it leaves room for abuse.Their bill would not bar anyone with a criminal record from obtaining a medical-marijuana card, or remove from the law the so-called “affirmative defense” that allows anyone, with a doctor’s backing, to “assert the medical purpose for using marijuana” as a defense to any prosecution involving marijuana.The Almeida-Carnevale bill would, however, bar the state from registering anyone with a capital offense or felony drug conviction as a “caregiver,” which is the state’s term for someone licensed to grow and provide the drug to someone legally allowed to use it.It would also eliminate “caregivers” from the medical marijuana pipeline entirely after Jan. 1, 2012, when the three marijuana dispensaries are presumably up and running. Between now and then, the bill would repeal the law that currently allows registered users and “caregivers” to share their marijuana with others.As of April 15, there were 1,562 patients and 1,240 caregivers in the medical-marijuana program.When the hearing finally got under way at around 8:15 p.m., Carnevale read headlines about the arrest of licensed “caregivers” in the business of drug trafficking. But one man called his own hours-long wait to testify a form of “patient abuse.”In her turn to speak, JoAnne Leppanen, executive director of the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition, said: “We need to make sure that the patients who have become self sufficient and found a way to provide themselves with medicine are protected. We need to also preserve the sense of generosity that patients have to one another, and help each other out.”Others submitted written testimony, including Emilie Archibald, of Woonsocket, who described herself as a licensed caregiver. She said, “the thousands of dollars that patients and caregivers have invested in their independence would be rendered useless if this bill passes.” She said the bill would “promote capitalistic concepts” over the “rights already given to those who can and do grow their own medicine.”“I know my patient’s name, address, malady and the types of medical marijuana that work best for him at different times of the day… I provide his medicine to him free of charge. In return, he provides a gourmet meal for my family at least twice a week,” she said.No vote was taken.The earlier Senate vote was on a bill sponsored by Sen. Rhoda E. Perry, D-Providence, to exempt the records of the Department of Health-run program from the state’s Access to Public Records Act.The Perry bill was introduced on April 29 after the Department of Health provided The Journal with the names of every one of the 355 doctors who, as of that point in time this spring, had signed at least one marijuana-use application.Twenty-one of those doctors accounted for more than a third of the 1,347 medical-marijuana cards issued as of that point. They included neurologists, oncologists, infectious-disease specialists, more than one family clinic doctor, the medical director of a drug-abuse addiction center and a psychiatrist running for mayor of Providence.The Rhode Island Medical Society and the Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union support the bill.Source: Providence Journal, The (RI)Author: Katherine Gregg, Journal State House Bureau Published:  Thursday, May 20, 2010Copyright: 2010 The Providence Journal CompanyContact: letters projo.comWebsite: URL:  Medical Marijuana Archives 
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