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Medical marijuana run-down

February 8, 2011

The auditorium at the RI Health Department was packed Monday as everybody crowded in to hear public testimony about the compassion center applicants.

The hearing went off to a rough start.  The stenographer’s machine stopped working, so the entire room waited a few minutes while she rebooted.

Medical marijuana patients were supposed to testify first, followed by politicians and the general public.  But Mayor Allan Fung from Cranston asked to go first because he had another engagement. That meant it was only fair to let the other elected officials follow behind him.   Cranston Representative Peter Palumbo won the award for least informed testimony when he criticized the Institute for Alternative Therapeutics.

Now, this is what I’m hearing. I haven’t reviewed the actual application so, this is ostensibly, these comments… I hope I’m wrong, but unfortunately I think I’m right.

Palumbo was also the first to make an argument involving zoning and pot brownies.

It sounds enticing.  You know, they’re baking brownies and things like that, but that area over there is not zoned for baking and baking with marijuana it’s definitely not zoned for right now.

Mayor Allan Fung said he was opposing all of the Cranston based compassion centers because medical marijuana is still illegal under federal law. He’s also concerned about criminal activity springing up around the stores.

Representative Doreen Costa from North Kingstown opposed the medical marijuana store proposed in her home town.  She said her email box exploded with complaints about the applications and she thinks the entire state isn’t ready for compassion centers.

Providence City Council member Bryan Principe came later in the hearing.  He said he opposed proposals in his city because they either had no set location or were located too close to residential areas. He also suggested locating a compassion centers at the Port of Providence for added security.

JoAnne Leppanen, the executive director of the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition, said she’s disappointed in the politicians.

It hurts to hear a response, particularly from the Mayor, speaking for patients who can’t speak for themselves. Patients are not a separate species. We are all patients.  How many of us are going to get through our lives without debilitating conditions?  So to say, [not] in my back yard is to turn your back on your neighbors, your friends, and perhaps members of your own family.

Leppanen stood up to show her support for Green Leaf Compassionate Care Center, The Rhode Island  Compassion Center, the Institute for Alternative Therapeutics, and The Thomas C Slater Compassion Center, but she says she’s only officially endorsing the Slater Center.

The rest of the testimony consisted mostly of patients either supporting an application or  talking about the urgency of having a safe place to get their medicine. Then there were some other folks opposed to applications because of their locations.

A few outliers- one woman testified against a compassion center because she’s opposed to the health effects of second hand marijuana smoke.  A lawyer for the town of West Warwick’s planning department said it would be  “sheer foolishness” to give Prospect Ministries permission to sell medical marijuana. The applicant, Pastor  Erik Johansson, was arrested last year for growing excessive amounts of marijuana in his church.

The hearing broke for lunch at 12:30, with about 20 folks signed up to either talk about the Slater Center or Summit Medical Compassion Center. I had another story to work on so I didn’t return for the rest of the testimony.  Was anyone else there?  Want to chime in on what I missed?

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