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compassion centers

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 24, 2012

    Governor Lincoln Chafee signed legislation into law this week authorizing the creation of state-licensed ‘compassion centers’ to engage in the production and distribution of cannabis for authorized patients. It is the second time since 2009 that state lawmakers have approved legislation allowing for the state regulation of medical marijuana facilities.

    Under the new law, Senate Bill 2555, health regulators will license three not-for-profit entities, known as ‘compassion centers,’ to operate within the state. Compassion centers will not be allowed to cultivate more than 150 cannabis plants on the premises at any one time, only 99 of which may be mature. Centers will also be restricted to possessing no more than 1,500 ounces of usable product at any one time.

    Lawmakers have suggested that the imposed statutory limits will lower the likelihood of federal law enforcement officials interfering with the implementation of the law. At least one other state, New Mexico, imposes similar caps on authorized dispensaries.

    State lawmakers initially enacted legislation allowing for the authorization of ‘compassion centers’ in 2009. However, Gov. Chafee suspended the law in 2011, stating, “[L]arge-scale commercial operations such as Rhode Island’s compassion centers (would) be potential targets of ‘vigorous’ criminal and civil enforcement efforts by the federal government.” Earlier this year, Gov. Chafee agreed to revisit the issue and to work with lawmakers to amend the law so that a limited number of small-scale distribution centers could apply for state licenses.

    In response to the legislature’s actions, US Attorney Peter Neronha has said he will continue to oversee the enforcement federal drug laws. However, he has not specifically said whether ‘compassion centers’ will be targeted.

    Three states – Colorado, Maine, and New Mexico – presently issue licenses to allow for the state-sanctioned production and distribution of cannabis. So far, dispensary facilities in those states have operated largely without federal interference.

    Similar licensing legislation approved in recent years in Arizona, New Jersey, Vermont, and Washington, DC has yet to be implemented by local lawmakers.

    In February, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell announced that he was suspending the implementation of a similar licensing program in that state.

    Rhode Island lawmakers legalized the limited use and cultivation of cannabis for therapeutic purposes in 2006. Over 3,000 Rhode Islanders are presently authorized under state law to use cannabis.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 28, 2009

    Yesterday’s NORML blog post notwithstanding, a number of state legislatures continue to move forward in support of sensible marijuana law reform.

    Here are some highlights and ways you can help.

    Rhode Island: House members overwhelmingly approved legislation last week regulating the establishment of state-licensed ‘compassion centers’ to manufacture and provide medical marijuana to authorized patients. Rhode Island’s legislature is the first state on the east coast to move forward with such legislation, which was approved by a vote of 63 to 5 in the House and 35 to 2 in the Senate. The margins are large enough to override a veto from Republican Gov. Donald Carcieri, who has voiced opposition to the measure. If you live in Rhode Island and want to learn more about this effort, please visit: http://ripatients.org.

    Illinois: On Wednesday members of the Illinois Senate passed SB 1381, the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act. UPDATE! On Thursday, members of the House Human Services Committee also passed the bill, and the full House is expected to act on it imminently. If you live in Illinois, you can voice your support in favor this legislation by going here and here. UPDATE#2! The House convened for its summer session without taking a floor vote on SB 1381. House members may decide to take up the issue later this fall or next spring.

    New Hampshire: As we reported yesterday, lawmakers are still trying to negotiate a compromise with Democrat Gov. John Lynch, who has threatened to veto medical marijuana legislation recently passed by the House and Senate. Our allies on the ground, NH Compassion, are encouraging voters to contact Gov. Lynch and urge him not to stand in the way of medical marijuana law reform. You can contact the governor by going here and here.

    New Jersey: Members of the state assembly Health and Senior Services Committee are scheduled to hear testimony in favor of A 804, the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, on Thursday, June 4, at 10am. (Full details available online here.) A companion bill, S 119, has already been approved by the Senate, and Democrat Gov. John Corzine has promised to sign medical marijuana legislation into law if it reaches his desk. You can help support this campaign by going here and by contacting your member of the assembly here.

    Delaware: Members of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee are considering legislation, SB 94, to allow for patients with a debilitating medical condition to grow and possess cannabis. The proposal is the first marijuana law reform bill to be before lawmakers in recent memory. Proponents can contact their senate members in support of the measure here.

    For information on additional state and federal marijuana law reform legislation, please visit NORML’s Take Action page here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 11, 2009

    The theme this week: Time to write your Governor!

    Maine: Democrat Gov. John Baldacci signed legislation into law on May 1 expanding the state’s marijuana decriminalization law. As enacted, LD 250 makes the possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana a civil violation, punishable by a fine only. (Presently, anyone found possessing more than 1.25 ounces of cannabis is presumed to be engaging in the marijuana sales and faces criminal penalties and potential jail time.) The new law takes effect later this fall. Only one other state, Ohio, treats the possession of more than 2.5 ounces of cannabis as a fine-only (no jail) offense.

    New Hampshire: Only one man has the power to continue the criminalization of seriously ill patients in New Hampshire. That man is Democrat Governor John Lynch. If you live in New Hampshire, he needs to hear from younow! Last week, Gov. Lynch indicated to House leaders that he was likely to veto HB 648, which would legalize the use and cultivation of medicinal cannabis by state-qualified patients. Legislative leaders are trying to revise the bill’s language to address the Governor’s concerns. But even more importantly the Governor needs to hear positive feedback from his constituents. You can contact Gov. Lynch here or by visiting NHCompassion.org.

    Hawaii: Senate Bill 1058, an act to create a medical cannabis task force committee, has been approved by the legislature and now awaits action from Republican Gov. Linda Lingle. The intent of the task force is to address patients’ concerns and criticisms regarding Hawaii’s eight-year-old medical marijuana law. In 2008, Gov. Lingle vetoed a similar task force measure. That is why, if you live in Hawaii, we are asking you to contact the Governor and urge her to support SB 1058. You can do so by going here.

    Rhode Island: House members are expected to vote later this week on House Bill 5359, which would allow for the state to license non-profit “compassion centers” to assist in the production and distribution of medical cannabis to qualified patients. The Senate previously voted 35 to 2 in favor of the legislation. House members will need to approve it by a similar majority — as the measure faces a veto threat from Republican Gov. Don Carcieri. If you live in Rhode Island, you can learn more about this campaign by going here or here.

    Minnesota: Legislation to legalize the medicinal use of cannabis has been approved by the state Senate and now awaits action from the House. At this time, the bill’s primary hurdle appears to be Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who has voiced strong opposition to the measure. If you live in Minnesota, please contact your House member and the Governor by going here.

    For information on additional marijuana law reform legislation, please visit NORML’s Take Action page here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 29, 2009

    Over the past 24 hours, several state legislatures have taken steps to enact medical marijuana legislation or improve upon existing law. Here is a summary of this latest progress.

    New Hampshire: The Senate voted 14 to 10 today in favor of HB 648, which would allow qualified patients to possess up to two ounces of cannabis and/or six plants for medical purposes. Because the Senate made minor amendments to the proposal, it must be re-approved by the House before going to Gov. John Lynch – who has expressed reservations about the measure. Starting tomorrow, our allies NH Compassion will begin airing television ads asking for the Governor to support HB 648. If you live in New Hampshire, you can write or call Gov. Lynch here.

    Minnesota: Also today, members of the State Senate gave preliminary approval to Senate File 97, an act to exempt qualified medical cannabis patients from state arrest and prosecution. The Senate is expected to give final passage to the bill imminently. A companion bill, House File 292, is also expected to be before the House floor shortly. If you live in Minnesota, please support this campaign by contacting your state representative and especially Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Additional information is available from Minnesota Cares here.

    Rhode Island: Members of the Rhode Island Senate voted 35 to 2 today in favor of SB 185, an act to allow for the distribution of medical cannabis by state-licensed compassion centers. A companion bill, HB 5359, is pending in the House and is expected to be voted on shortly. UPDATE! Today the House Health, Education, and Welfare Committee voted 8-0 in favor of HB 5359. The bill now goes to the House floor. If you live in Rhode Island, please contact your House member and urge him or her to follow the Senate’s lead and support HB 5359. Even if the both chambers ultimately approve this effort, it is likely that the legislature will need to override the Governor’s veto before this measure can become state law. That means that every vote counts. For more information about this campaign, please visit the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition here.

    Pennsylvania: Finally, NORML is thrilled to announce that Rep. Mark Cohen (D-Philadelphia), along with six co-sponsors, introduced legislation today to make Pennsylvania the fourteenth state to legalize the physician-supervised use of cannabis. As introduced — House Bill 1393, The Barry Busch Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act of 2009 — would allow state-authorized patients to possess and cultivate cannabis for therapeutic purposes. The measure also seeks to allow for the state-licensed distribution and sale of medical marijuana by authorized ‘compassion centers. For several months, Philly NORML has worked behind the scenes with Rep. Cohen’s staff to draft this important legislation, which you can read about here. If you live in Pennsylvania, you can support this effort by going here.

    To learn about additional medical marijuana law reform legislation in Alabama, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, and Texas, please visit NORML’s Legislative Action Alerts page here.