On Wednesday, the Rhode Island Senate voted to approve legislation that will help eliminate roadblocks that have slowed the opening of dispensaries in the state. The proposed legislation will now go in front of the House.
Planning of Rhode Island’s medical marijuana program was progressing, but was halted in the beginning of May 2011 by Governor Lincoln Chaffee after he received a letter from Rhode Island District Attorney Peter Neronha. The letter clarified the Department of Justice’s stance on marijuana and essentially acted as a warning letter about what could happen if Rhode Island moved forward with their medical marijuana program.
The new legislation addresses issues such as security, safety, growing, and possession limits. Under the passed legislation, there is a limit on how much marijuana collectives, or “compassion centers,” as they are referred to in Rhode Island, will be able to cultivate and possess at one time. In addition, the new legislation will also allow patients to sell marijuana that they grow to compassion centers, as long as they do not exceed their personal limit or the limits for the centers.
The bill was also amended in committee to address safety and security concerns. Criminal background checks will be required for all compassion center employees. State Police will also be allowed to visit collectives and make recommendations about safety and personnel. There will also be members of the State Police Department on the panel that oversees and regulates collectives in the state.
Senator Rhoda E. Perry, sponsor of the bill, stated, “What’s important to us is getting the licensing process back on track so the facilities can open and safely get some relief to suffering people. Every day these centers aren’t open is another day that many sick and dying Rhode Islanders and their families or caregivers are forced to turn to unsafe, illegal means to get their medicine.”
The passing of the bill by the Senate is still an early step in the process, but it gives hope for Rhode Island patients who have been patiently waiting since they voted to legalize medical marijuana in 2006.