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Rhode Island

  • 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 Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director April 11, 2012

    From the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines
    IACM-Bulletin of 8 April 2012

    World: Increasing numbers of patients use cannabis for medicinal purposes

    An increasing number of patients in the world are using cannabis for therapeutic reasons, with available data from countries, which have installed programs for their citizens. Good data are available for Israel, Canada, the Netherlands and many states of the US with medicinal cannabis laws and registries. In several more countries only a few patients are allowed to use cannabis for medicinal purposes, including Germany, Norway, Finland and Italy. In many other countries such as Spain and some states of the US without a registry such as California the number of medicinal users is estimated to be high, but no detailed data are available.

    The numbers in California with hundreds of cannabis dispensaries and clinics that issue medical cannabis recommendations are unclear, since the state does not require residents to register as patients (see below**)
    Most of the 16 states that allow the medicinal use of cannabis require a registration. Recently the press agency Associated Press published data on registered patients in different states of the USA based on state agencies responsible for maintaining patient registries:

    State: Number of registered patients (per 1,000 of the whole population) —
    Colorado: 82,089 (16.3)
    Oregon: 57,386 (15.0)
    Montana: 14,364 (14.5)
    Michigan: 131,483 (13.3)
    Hawaii: 11,695 (8.6)
    Rhode Island: 4,466 (4.2)
    Arizona: 22,037 (3.5)
    New Mexico: 4,310 (2.1)
    Maine: 2,708 (2.0)
    Nevada: 3,388 (1.3)
    Vermont: 505 (0.8)
    Alaska: 538 (0.8)
    Patient registration is mandatory in Delaware, New Jersey and the District of Columbia (Washington D.C.), but their registries are not yet up and running. Washington State has neither voluntary nor mandatory registration.

    Data from Israel show that in August 2011 6,000 patients got medicinal cannabis (0.8 patients in 1,000). It is estimated that the number increases to 40,000 in 2016 (5.2 patients in 1,000 citizens).

    In Canada 12,116 patients were allowed to use cannabis on 30 September 2011 (0.35 patients in 1,000 citizens).

    Numbers of patients using cannabis from the pharmacies in the Netherlands were estimated to be 1,300 in 2010 (0.08 patients in 1,000 citizens). However, many patients in the Netherlands use cannabis from the coffee shops or grow their own.

    In Germany about 60 patients are currently allowed to use cannabis for medicinal purposes.

    (Sources: Associated Press of 24 March 2012, website of the Israeli Prime Minister of 7 August 2011, UPI of 31 October 2011, Pharmaceutisch Weekblad No. 20, 2011)

    **[Editor’s note: CA NORML published a white paper last May estimating that California has 750,000 – 1,125,000 citizens who possess a physician’s recommendation to use cannabis medicinally.]

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 26, 2012

    Marijuana law reform legislation is pending in nearly 30 states this 2012 legislative session. Is your state among them? Find out here.

    More importantly, have you taken the time to call or write your state elected officials this year and urged them to support these pending reforms? If not, NORML has provided you with all of the tools to do so via our capwiz ‘Take Action Center’ here. (FYI: NORML’s capwiz page is specific to legislation only, not ballot initiative efforts. A summary pending 2012 ballot initiative campaigns may be found at NORML’s Legalize It 2012 page on Facebook here or on the NORML blog here.)

    Below is this week’s edition of NORML’s Weekly Legislative Round Up — where we spotlight specific examples of pending marijuana law reform legislation from around the country.

    ** A note to first time readers: NORML can not introduce legislation in your state. Nor can any other non-profit advocacy organization. Only your state representatives, or in some cases an individual constituent (by way of their representative; this is known as introducing legislation ‘by request’) can do so. NORML can — and does — work closely with like-minded politicians and citizens to reform marijuana laws, and lobbies on behalf of these efforts. But ultimately the most effective way — and the only way — to successfully achieve statewide marijuana law reform is for local stakeholders and citizens to become involved in the political process and to make the changes they want to see. Get active; get NORML!

    California: Democrat Assemblywoman Norma Torres is sponsoring legislation, AB 2552, that seeks to criminalize anyone who operates a motor vehicle with any detectable amount of marijuana or its metabolites in their system, regardless of whether their psychomotor performance is demonstrably impaired. NORML is opposing this measure, which has been referred to the Assembly Committee on Public Safety. More information about this legislation is available from California NORML or via NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.

    Connecticut: Legislation that seeks to allow for the limited legalization of medical marijuana by qualified patients is moving forward in the Connecticut state legislature. On Wednesday, March 21, members of the Judiciary Committee voted 35 to 8 in favor of the measure, Raised Bill 5389. NORML thanks all of you who contacted your elected officials ahead of this important vote.

    The Committee vote follows on the heels of the release of a statewide Quinnipiac University Poll of over 1,600 residents which reported that 68 percent of voters endorse the measure. According to the poll, “there is no gender, partisan, income, age or education group opposed” to legalizing marijuana as a physician-recommended therapy.

    To receive future e-mail updates on the progress of this legislation and what you can do to assure its passage, please contact Erik Williams, Connecticut NORML Executive Director, here.

    New Hampshire: Members of the Senate Committee on Health voted 5-0 last week in favor of Senate Bill 409, which allows for the limited legalization of medical marijuana by qualified patients, on March 23rd. SB 409 now awaits a vote on the Senate floor, which may come as soon as this week. [UPDATE!] On Wednesday, March 27th, members of the Republican-led New Hampshire State Senate voted 13-11 in favor of Senate Bill 409. You can watch lawmakers reaction to the vote here. As amended, qualified patients would be able to possess up to four cannabis plants and/or six ounces of marijuana for therapeutic purposes. SB 409 now awaits action from the House of Representatives, House Health and Human Services Committee. To become involved in the statewide campaign effort in favor of SB 409, contact NH Compassion here or visit NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.

    Rhode Island: Legislation seeking to reduce marijuana possession penalties has been reintroduced in both chambers of the Rhode Island legislature. House Bill 7092 and its companion legislation Senate Bill 2253 amend state law so that the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by an individual 18 or older is reduced from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by one year in jail and a $500 maximum fine) to a non-arrestable civil offense, punishable by a $150 fine, no jail time, and no criminal record. A recent statewide poll, conducted in January by the Public Policy Polling Firm, shows that 65 percent of Rhode Island’s residents approve of this change.

    On Tuesday, March 27, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee will hear testimony in favor of the measure. Last week, members of the House Judiciary Committee held similar hearings. NORML submitted written testimony in favor of the measure to the Committee.

    Separate legislation to regulate the adult sale and use of marijuana is also pending in both chambers, and will be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow.

    Additional information about these measures is available from NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.

    [UPDATE] Tennessee: The House version of legislation, the “Safe Access to Medical Cannabis Act”, that seeks to allow for the use of medical marijuana passed out of Committee on Tuesday, March 27. The bill now goes to the full House Health and Human Resources Committee, which will hear the measure on Wednesday, April 4, at 1:30pm. In past years, similar legislation has gained significant legislative support. NORML had previously retained a state lobbyist to work on behalf of the medicinal cannabis issue in the state legislature, and many Tennessee lawmakers have expressed support authorizing patients’ access to marijuana therapy. Now lawmakers need to hear from you. You can contact your lawmakers about this legislation via NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 16, 2012

    The 2012 legislative session is in full swing and marijuana law reform legislation is pending in well over a dozen states. To keep up to date regarding how you can support marijuana-friendly reform measures in your state, please visit NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.

    You can also stay abreast of 2012 statewide ballot initiative efforts via NORML’s Legalize 2012 Facebook page here.

    Below is this week’s edition of NORML’s Weekly Legislative Round Up — where we spotlight specific examples of pending marijuana law reform legislation from around the country.

    ** A note to first time readers: NORML can not introduce legislation in your state. Nor can any other non-profit advocacy organization. Only your state representatives, or in some cases an individual constituent (by way of their representative; this is known as introducing legislation ‘by request’) can do so. NORML can — and does — work closely with like-minded politicians and citizens to reform marijuana laws, and lobbies on behalf of these efforts. But ultimately the most effective way — and the only way — to successfully achieve statewide marijuana law reform is for local stakeholders and citizens to become involved in the political process and to make the changes they want to see. Get active; get NORML!

    MASSACHUSETTS: State lawmakers on Tuesday, March 6, will hear testimony in favor of House Bill 1371, which would legalize and regulate the commercial production and distribution of marijuana for adults over 21 years of age. Members of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary will debate the measure at 1pm in Room A-2 of the Boston Statehouse. For more information on this upcoming hearing, contact MassCann: the Massachusetts chapter of NORML here. To contact your elected officials regarding HB 1371, visit NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.

    NEW YORK: Bi-partisan legislation, Senate Bill 5187 and Assembly Bill 7620, seeking to reduce marijuana penalties and arrest violations involving cases where marijuana was either consumed or allegedly possessed in public [NY State Penal Law 221.10] remains pending in New York state. Under present law, non-public possession of up to 25 grams of marijuana is a non-criminal civil citation, punishable by a $100 fine. However, in recent years, police — particularly in New York City — have misused Penal Law 221.10 to arrest defendants who would have otherwise faced no more than a civil citation. Passage of these measures will stop this police misconduct. You can contact your state legislators regarding these efforts here.

    NORTH CAROLINA: House Bill 324, an act to reclassify the possession of minor amounts of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor to an infraction, remains pending before House lawmakers. House Bill 324 would amend state law so that the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana would become a non-criminal infraction, punishable by a fine and no criminal record. You can contact your lawmakers regarding this measure by visiting NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.

    RHODE ISLAND: Legislation seeking to reduce marijuana possession penalties has been reintroduced in both chambers of the Rhode Island legislature. House Bill 7092 and its companion legislation Senate Bill 2253 amend state law so that the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by an individual 18 or older is reduced from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by one year in jail and a $500 maximum fine) to a non-arrestable civil offense, punishable by a $150 fine, no jail time, and no criminal record. Full text of the bills can be read online here and here. A recent statewide poll shows that 65 percent of Rhode Island’s residents approve of this change. If you reside in the Ocean State, you can contact your members of the House and Senate in support of these decriminalization measures here.

    VERMONT: House Bill 427 — which amends state law so that the adult possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is reduced from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by six months in jail and a $500 maximum fine) to a civil offense, punishable by a $150 fine, no jail time, and no criminal record — remains pending in the 2012 legislative session. According to a just-released statewide poll, over 60 percent of Vermont voters endorse decriminalizing cannabis. You can contact your House member in support of HB 427 here.

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director November 30, 2011

    The governors of Rhode Island and Washington have both signed a petition asking the Obama Administration to re-schedule cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule II, effectively ending the federal government’s total prohibition on medical patients having lawful and controlled access to organic cannabis products.

    “The situation has become untenable for our states and others. The solution lies with the federal government.”

    Both Governors Lincoln Chafee and Christine Gregoire of Rhode Island and Washington respectively were, ironically, two state governors who chose to heed to the warnings issued by the federal government in a Department of Justice memo (known as the ‘Cole memo‘) and not move forward with otherwise popular medical cannabis law reforms in their states. 

    However, no more! These two governors’ action today is a very important turning point in the history of cannabis law reform in America.

    Contrastingly, the governors of Colorado, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico and the city council of D.C. all largely ignored the federal government and moved forward with their states’ respective medical cannabis programs.

    NORML began the entire legal and political debate about ‘medical marijuana’ in 1972 when it launched a 24-year re-scheduling effort, that is still laboring on all these years.

    Therefore to finally witness governors so frustrated with the absurdly mis-scheduled cannabis plant as being dangerous, addictive and possessing no medical utility (wrongly grouped with heroin and LSD) that they are reaching out to the president to fix this clear injustice and warping of science is a clear demonstration that the friction between the federal government’s recalcitrance on accepting medical cannabis (or for that matter ending Cannabis Prohibition in total) and state politicians who can no longer justify towing the fed’s ridiculous ban on physician-prescribed cannabis to sick, dying and sense-threatened medical patients is coming to a dramatic conclusion in a government showdown, one that may bode well for the larger Cannabis Prohibition reforms needed, festering just below the surface of the public’s mass acceptance of medical access to cannabis.

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