Rhode Island: Governor Signs Legislation Authorizing State-Licensed Medical Marijuana ‘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.

    46 responses to “Rhode Island: Governor Signs Legislation Authorizing State-Licensed Medical Marijuana ‘Compassion Centers’”

    1. TheOracle says:

      Inactive going active. Other states and D.C. go active on patient distribution, too!

      This is the story of The Three Little Pigs.

      The Big Bad Wolf can’t blow down all their houses at the same time.

      A string of the MMJ programs on hold going active is a big brick wall that isn’t going to give way.

      Double Dip Recession to hit in January 2013 when Greece may leave the Eurozone, Bush tax cuts expire and the automatic budgetary cuts at the federal level kick in because too many federal politicians who know prohibition is a failure are afraid to do something, so they’ll just let it happen with the automatic cuts so no one gets the blame from the Americans they’ve been lying to all these years and have swallowed their lies hook, line and sinker.

      Cannabis, worldwide, is a great new revenue source and source of some jobs. It gives the U.S. a reason and a revenue stream to be in strategic countries around the world and actually help the nations in nation building themselves.

      Jump on the bandwagon!

      The Beat Goes On


      Sonny & Cher

    2. Roger says:

      Yay Rhode Island! It’s a baby step in the right direction; that direction being legalization for adults who want to use it for whatever purpose…

      Now, if only the ignorant leaders in Virginia (Rep. Frank Wolf in particular) would get on board this train that is moving through our once great nation, the millions of us living here would be ever so much happier…

    3. Brandon Boucher says:

      it’s not “…a great new revenue source…” when it has been being utilized for thousands of years… i’d say it’s a great OLD revenue that many societies have successfully collected.

    4. jbkorn02 says:

      When will we have our chance to vote on the issue in Illinois? I know it won’t be this year.

      [Paul Armentano responds: Rhode Island residents did not ‘vote’ on this issue. They successfully lobbied their state elected officials and the Governor to enact this reform via the legislative process. Illinois voters must do likewise.]

    5. TheOracle says:

      Right, so in that sense it is an “old” revenue source, but since the feds have not used cannabis as a revenue source, it has yet to be tapped. The argument is framed in a way to make sense to a prohibitionist, not you.

    6. Kirk Perry says:

      From: Steve Kroft Blog ~ CBS 60 Minutes®

      Don’t Vote this election or until the DEA re-classifies Cannabis from a Type-1 NARCOTIC to A CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE.

      Why support anyone that doesn’t support you and feed the same circle that excludes your civil rights? Nothing else will work. The DEA won’t stop unless someone puts a stick in their spokes and votes and publicity will change the course. More and more news articles contain notable public figures, who are sick and tired of having their lives and health-comfort disrupted by the united efforts of the Alcohol Brewers of America and the DEA, in eliminating Safe Access of Cannabis (aka, marijuana) for which they make many claims (“mortal risk for Americans??”) without one shred of evidence.
      WHEN WILL 60 MINUTES INVADE THE OFFICES and IDEOLOGY of “SYRIAN-STYLE” authoritarian PERSECUTION of Cannabis Users. WHERE ARE OUR CIVIL RIGHTS protected by the DEA’s refusal to go on CAMERA and EXPLAIN to we their “paycheck writers” why MARIJUANA is viewed as So-Got-Dang-Evil that they can’t bare to talk about it ? Who does the DEA think they’re not talking to?

    7. Ray DiPasquale says:

      It is a start and hopefully this continues to bring a better quality of life for those patients who need the medicine.
      Thanks Rhode Island.

    8. Kirk Perry says:

      ” NO VOTE ” – without Cannabis representation

    9. average joe says:

      I simply can’t condone the “no vote” action being thrown out here. If we refuse to vote, they still win. voting is a privilege, not a right. if you dont think so, then look at felons who can no longer vote….it has been taken away. you can’t take away rights. when you dont vote, you have taken away your own ability to speak out on the issues.

    10. average joe says:


      if you don’t vote at all, it’s one less vote that a prohibitionist has to worry about. it makes it easier for them to stay in office. say for instance that both parties are opposed to any form of legalization…well, choose the lesser of the two evils. say one canidate is hard nosed and unwilling to listen or compromise on the issue (like the a-holes i have in office here that won’t even return a letter). and the other canidate is opposed, but willing to hold audience and at least listen to the pro arguements. that’s a foot in the door. we need someone who will give our voice a public forum to be heard. it’s all about education. you, i, and everyone else on this site knows the facts…but the general population is still subject to all of the old propaganda that comes from those 3 letter agencies you speak of. not all will listen, we want to speak to those who will, or at least those capable of being objective.

      simply not voting is not the answer. in fact, it may serve to lengthen prohibition.