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What could RI expect from the Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center?

June 17, 2010

UPDATE: if you’re looking for the latest on the Slater compassion center, view its most recent application here.  Since this post, the group has changed its location to 170 Royal Little Drive in Providence.


Here’s the latest update in my series on the applicants hoping to run a medical marijuana retail store in Rhode Island. To see my posts on other applicants go here and here.

Today we’re hearing from Gerald McGraw Jr., the  director of operations of J & J Electric in Warwick and the main applicant behind the proposed Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center.

McGraw says he was first attracted to the medical marijuana program because of his experience with a relative who died of cancer. Now, he’s a registered caregiver who provides medical marijuana for patients who have trouble growing it themselves or need to supplement their crop.

McGraw lists Susan Audino as the group’s director of quality assurance and quality control, Dr. David Carpentier as the medical director, and Ellen Smith as the patient outreach and advocacy adviser.  Ellen Smith was one of the people featured in my story about the Cannabis Conference in Warwick last April.  Let’s get started.

MH: Let’s say I’m a medical marijuana patient.  Describe my experience when I walk through the doors of your compassion center.

GM: On an initial visit the patient will meet with an employee of our Member Services Department. While there, our team will orient the patient on the compassion center’s policies and rules, complete all necessary registration materials, and verify the status of the patient in the state’s program. All patients also receive a copy of our patient handbook, which provides details on all aspects of our operation.

When finished with Member Services, patients will have access to the dispensary portion of our facility. They will enjoy the calm and soothing aesthetic of our facility, which is focused on healing and wellness. They will notice our meditation garden, water features, religious reflection areas, and classroom space. Patients will also be able to access a host of ancillary holistic services like yoga, massage, Tai Chi, Reiki, and hypnotherapy – all available at no cost.

Our staff will offer friendly and knowledgeable guidance on the full array of medical cannabis offerings. Upon completion of the visit, the patient will leave with the comfort of knowing that a full-service and discreet security team is focused on their safety and well being.

MH: Where would your store be located?

GM: Recognizing that safe access to medicine is our paramount concern, it is equally important to have a compassion center site that is convenient for patients in our state. The largest number of patients in the program resides in Providence County. We have secured a building at 431 Harris Avenue in Providence. This location is large enough to house both our dispensary operations as well as our cultivation.

More importantly, the site is convenient for patient access and has lots of ample parking. It is located in immediate proximity to Routes 6 and 10 as well as Interstate 95. The location is situated along public transportation routes, including traditional RIPTA bus service as well as the local Providence trolley.

MH: Have you received zoning approval for your site?

GM: We have written approval from the Director of the Department of Planning & Development in Providence for our proposed compassion center. Additional correspondence approving our site was also received from the Department of Inspection and Standards in Providence.

MH: How would you handle security?

GM: We have engaged the services of APG Security to provide security at the Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center. The security team will be headed by Thomas Underhill, a retired Lieutenant (Uniform and Detective Divisions) of the Rhode Island State Police.

The plan has been reviewed in its entirety by Paul Kennedy, Deputy Chief of Police in Providence, and Raymond S. White, Deputy Superintendent and Chief of Field Operations for the Rhode Island State Police.

The security plan is built on the concepts of safeguarding the growth, production, and storage of medical cannabis; providing a safe and secure environment for the Center’s staff, patients, and visitors; and developing comprehensive audit procedures for the entire operation as related to the handling and distribution of medicine.

MH: How much would the marijuana cost?

GM: The cost of medicine will vary depending on the particular strain. Our pricing for top level medicine will average $51 for one-eighth [ed note- 1/8 of an ounce] of cannabis. The price for medicine of a lesser quality and potency will obviously be less. In order to avoid diversion of medicine, our pricing structure is comparable to the current market value for cannabis in Rhode Island.

It is vitally important for compassion center operators to avoid any instance of diversion of medicine that is intended for licensed cardholders. Appropriate pricing is a safeguard against diversion.

MH: How would you meet the needs of low income patients?

GM: We will implement a “compassion program” that features a sliding cost scale relative to a patient’s income status. Special accommodations will be made for those patients who are terminally ill, including discounted or free medicine for these individuals. As a responsible non-profit entity, the Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center is committed to ensuring that no patients will go without medicine due to financial hardship.

MH: What motivated you to apply?

GM: I was motivated to apply for the compassion center license as a result of my grandmother’s long and courageous battle against cancer. She was not availed the legal protection to use medical cannabis, which may have helped her pain, nausea and suffering.

I also have many family and friends who suffer from either terminal illnesses or debilitating conditions. Many of these individuals can be helped by the use of medical cannabis. I have also been enormously affected by my work as a caregiver for a courageous woman who suffers from a chronic, debilitating condition. She deserves the right to receive her medicine in a safe and accessible place that respects the healing and wellness benefits of the plant.

MH: Medical marijuana is often the butt of a lot of jokes.  How have friends/relatives/colleagues responded to your interest in running a compassion center?

GM: The response from friends, relatives, and colleagues has been overwhelmingly positive. I have received great encouragement from people of all ages and social strata. This issue enjoys wide public support, which I have evidenced first-hand by the encouragement of people around me.

MH: Why should RI pick your application?

GM: The Department of Health should award a license to us because our plan encompasses the spirit and ideals that were advocated so effectively by our namesake, the late Representative Thomas C. Slater. I care deeply about Rhode Island’s medical marijuana program and take my responsibility as a licensed caregiver quite seriously.

Along with my personal investment in the program I have secured a site that already enjoys approval by local officials. The location is convenient to patients throughout our state, allowing for dignified, affordable, and safe access to medicine.

We have also put together a team of leading local experts in areas like quality assurance, medicine, and cultivation. Above all, we have engaged the services of an operational consultant that has the most extensive and reputable experience in the country for non-profit medical cannabis dispensaries. Our site will be secured by professionals with deep ties to local enforcement, providing an added layer of comfort for the community.

Our proposal is rooted in an unwavering commitment to patients, an exceptional site, a comprehensive security plan, and a team of the most experienced leaders in the medical cannabis field. We strongly believe the Department of Health will be well served in awarding a license to our team.


To take a look at McGraw’s official application, go here.

Did I miss anything?  Post your questions or comments below.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. June 17, 2010 7:45 pm

    These “centers” are completely unnecessary. It’s ridiculous…. and offensive to Law Biding Citizens.

    There are plenty of alternatives to marijuana. Honestly… it’s just “nuts” and I wouldn’t want to live near any of these centers.

    I would not want a single penny of Rhode Island taxpayer dollars to cover the cost of a measly “sliver” of this green-grass-garbage.

    Location: “immediate proximity to Routes 6 and 10 as well as Interstate 95..”
    (So, it is located 10 minutes from Rhode Island College, 5 minutes from Providence Place Mall, and 2 minutes from about 3 strip clubs. Fantasies anyone?)

    Maybe in a few years we can have marijuana vending machines at every CVS…..

    Cocaine anyone?

    • robbie permalink
      March 5, 2012 10:06 pm

      if you ever met my wife you would really see the need for places like this…at 35 she suffered a massive stroke and soon after a hemicraniotomy half her skull was removed and 10 years later she still cant even really should read a book on it or something…I hope you never need any type of the benefits offered from hemp oil.I for one see its healing uses.I can only tell you “Be Well” and hope you never are in need, then you would have to remove your own foot.
      A caregiver in RI

    • adam permalink
      September 17, 2012 8:20 am

      People like Richard make me sick. I suffer from Crohns disease, and marijuana is the only thing that allows me to eat and deal with nearly constant pain. Btw I only weigh 120 lbs and am 5’11″… A compassion center will allow me to get the medicine I need without having to go through uncomfortable/dangerous dealings with people I’d rather not associate with.

  2. Billy permalink
    June 18, 2010 5:23 pm

    Richard. I agree. I’m frightened that marijuana will be available 10 minutes from Rhode Island College and 5 minutes from Providence Place Mall. Lord knows the young people there would NEVER use such a dangerous drug.

    By the way, it must be nice living on whatever planet it is you live on.

    Marijuana is about 1000 times safer than most of the LEGAL drugs that are sold at places like CVS. It is much less harmful than the Budweiser that is sold at the corner liquor store. In the history of mankind, no one has ever died from a marijuana overdose. And these compassion centers will be licensed and regulated by the state, which I think you will agree is better than continuing to line the pocket of everyone’s dear old friend, the street corner drug dealer.

    Not one cent of state money will go towards the operation of a compassion center. In fact, the state and local governments will have new revenue from these operations in the form of employment taxes, property taxes, corporate taxes, and licensing fees.

    I have trouble understanding how “Law Biding” citizens like you are so opposed to medical marijuana. If a person is sick or dying, why would you want to stop them from doing something that alleviates pain and suffering? Perhaps there is no compassion for fellow citizens on that planet you live on.

  3. Gillian permalink
    June 29, 2010 6:42 pm

    As a resident of the neighborhood for the proposed Slater Center, I strongly disagree with the statement that there is ample parking. The Capitol Records Building has only a driveway with what appears to be a remote-control-operated fence. Currently there’s a sign that says “Honk for Entry” at that entrance. The 5-way intersection at Eagle, Harris, and Atwells is already overburdened and lacks a left-hand turn signal for cars turning from Eagle onto Atwells, which leads to frequent near-accidents. Drivers unfamiliar with the neighborhood also regularly disregard a stop sign intended for drivers merging from Eagle Street onto Kinsley.

    The Center proposes to operate seven days a week; its range of services and the projected number of clients cannot be accommodated by on-street parking, and will create difficulties for area businesses and residents.

  4. Angela Kane permalink
    June 29, 2010 9:11 pm

    What ample parking?! There is limited parking. I live in a Monohasset Mill which is just down the street for the proposed compassion center, and I’m telling you the parking situation as far as I can tell is only street parking. Plus there’s already a lot of traffic, we don’t need anymore. I think they are choosing a bad location. I don’t think it will work out for them, because there’s no parking!

  5. Jack Sporer permalink
    January 20, 2011 7:32 pm

    I sincerely hope for your sake that you and none of your loved ones are ever afflicted with cancer, AIDS, glaucoma, chronic debilitating pain, or any of the myriad ailments that can be treated very effectively through the use of marijuana. When a person you love is unable to eat from nausea from chemotherapy, when they lose the desire to live through the seemingly endless pain I just hope you have the clarity of vision to try an alternative medicine with over 5000 years of use and zero deaths resulting from it. This medicine can make life so much easier for the truly sick, and the only side effect if ingested safely is a euphoric feeling. If you can’t see that you are too embroiled in your own prejudices to look at this issue clearly.

  6. mikey permalink
    June 8, 2011 11:54 pm

    fact more people over dosed on water then weed///its a fact…look it up .how about close all the bars and package stores and banned all beer and liquar …it dosint have any medical use..but still let people get drunk ,drive kill hundreds of people a year….but wait…..let cry about the compession center up the street helpin sick people..u people are crazy….im one of thos sick people…not my back hurts or i have a pain in my knee …i have cancer and i say that marijuana has helped me alot… my last days here shouldent be dectated by a bunch of crazy people who talk out ther @ss and donet care about the sick intill its there kid or father….


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