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A legislative solution for RI’s compassion centers? UPDATED

February 29, 2012

It’s been a long, slow slog for Rhode Island’s medical marijuana dispensaries. Since Governor Lincoln Chafee received a threatening letter for U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha, the whole program has been in limbo.

But a new piece of legislation might make it possible for the state’s compassion centers to finally open.  The Senate bill S2555 makes tweaks to the original Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act. Here’s the official explanation of the changes-

This act would fine-tune certain provisions of the chapter on medical marijuana such as a clarification that a registered qualifying patient, registered primary caregiver or a registered compassion center will not be subject to arrest or prosecution or denied rights (including disciplinary action by a licensing board) for selling, giving or distributing marijuana of the type and amount permitted by law, the conditions under which a compassion center’s registry  identification card can be revoked, and a requirement that all compassion centers approved after January 1, 2012 be located a certain distance from schools.

This act would take effect upon passage.

Seems like minor stuff, right? The Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition (RIPAC) says it would do much more-

Senate Bill 2555 would authorize the Health Department to determine the number of plants that a Compassion Center could grow. Patients and caregivers would be authorized to sell excess medicine to the Compassion Centers.

This would be in response to worries that the compassion centers could get too big and out of control.  The idea is the Department of Health could set a low number, say 99 plants- the point at which federal penalties sharply increase, and caregivers could supplement that supply.

Senator Josh Miller, one of the co-sponsors of S2555, says RIPAC’s description fits with his understanding of the legislation. It’s not clear why these changes weren’t mentioned in the summary of the bill. I’m hoping to get more information later on today.

UPDATE: The co-sponsors of S2555 gave me this summary of  the bill. They say it’s the result of a collaboration between the Senate, House, and the Governor’s office.

The Senate, House, and Governor’s staff worked together to address concerns blocking implementation of compassion centers. Three major provisions are:

  • The amount of marijuana that a compassion center may grow and possess is a key factor for federal officials, so a limit will be placed on that by the Department of Health through regulation.
  • The 3 centers that have been approved by the department will be able to proceed within these new limitations.
  • Any patient, caregiver or compassion center that grows up to their allotted maximums, but does not sell it all to its patients may sell it to a compassion center as long as the limits of the purchasing center are not exceeded. (Avoids illegal sales of excess merchandise.

I have calls out to the Governor’s office and Senate and House leadership to confirm that they’ve signed on to this legislation. If they have, it has a very good chance of passing. Here’s  statement from Greg Pare, Director of Communications for the Senate-

While everything is subject to revision during the committee review process, the bill was developed collaboratively with Senator Perry and the Senate leadership working together with the Rep. Slater and the House and the Governor’s office, and the Senate President is supportive of the legislation.

Looks like this legislation has a very good chance of passing. In the meantime, what do you think of the proposal? Is it a realistic solution for this stalled program?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Catharine Leach permalink
    February 29, 2012 3:01 pm

    I hope so! I see it as a realistic and necessary compromise this late in the licensing (of the centers) process. I hope this facilitates the compassion centers’ licensing and opening finally. It is a greatly needed option for many in the program. Chafee may even get some type of redemption from the Medical Marijuana community….maybe….

  2. February 29, 2012 7:46 pm

    This will change history, All of Rhode Islands tax problems will go away. All our children’s school programs will benefit , hospitals,libraries ,and of course fire and police personal. It’s time sike these I am so proud to be voting for your medical benefits. I myself have no alignments but I love seeing grandma beable to smile agian , thanks to this wonder herb. Go chafee!!!

  3. nick permalink
    February 29, 2012 7:54 pm

    This sounds like it would solve a lot of legal problems for legitimate caregivers and patients, but not let the compassion centers destroy the existing stability of the existing system

  4. March 1, 2012 1:14 pm

    High Hopes …High Hopes

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