Rhode Island Sets Good Example With Pot Law

June 30th, 2009 – Those of us who have seen the suffering of sick friends or family members relieved by smoking marijuana remain mystified at Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s opposition to a medical marijuana law. But perhaps she will be inspired by Rhode Island’sGeriatrics_patient example.

The Ocean State’s legislature has expanded a 2006 medical marijuana law to allow for state-licensed “compassion centers,” dispensaries where chronically ill residents who are registered with the state health department and have a prescription from a doctor may buy pot to ease their pain. There are 700 registered patients and 582 caregivers who may purchase marijuana on behalf of someone else.

Rhode Island joined California and New Mexico as the only states to permit marijuana sales to chronically ill people. At least eight other states, including New Hampshire and Maine, are considering similar legislation; 13 states offer some legal protection to patients who use marijuana under a doctor’s care.

Connecticut might have been the 14th. A bill introduced last year would have allowed patients with conditions such as cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis or AIDS to grow up to four marijuana plants in their homes with a doctor’s prescription. The bill was approved by wide margins in the Connecticut House and Senate. Polls showed that 83 percent of residents supported the legislation.

But Mrs. Rell vetoed the measure. She said it would force people to seek out drug dealers to buy marijuana, apparently unaware that that’s what sick people or their friends were already doing.

Mrs. Rell also said the bill would send the wrong message to young people. But research by the Washington, D.C.-based Medical Marijuana Project has found no increases in marijuana use among the young and some indications of less use in some age groups in states that allow medical marijuana.

Perhaps when pot becomes a palliative for cancer or HIV/AIDS patients, it loses its attraction.

State Rep. Penny Bacchiochi, R-Somers, whose then-husband used marijuana to counter the pain of bone cancer in the 1980s, reintroduced the medical marijuana bill earlier this year but did not press it after she was told that the governor had not changed her position.

The governor ought to do so in time for the 2010 session, lest she allow ideology to trump compassion. Source.

One response to “Rhode Island Sets Good Example With Pot Law”

  1. From the blog

    Saginaw Cops And DEA Reflexively Destroy Medical Marijuana Patient’s Property
    Sat, 22 May 2010 13:36:37 By: Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director
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    Unfortunately, what happened to medical marijuana patient Edward Boyke, Jr last month in Michigan is hardly an aberration as NORML still receives calls and emails nearly every day from lawful medical marijuana patients being terrorized by local and federal drug agents, often destroying their legal supply of medical cannabis and cultivation equipment–effectively making the arresting cops prosecutor, judge and jury.

    Thankfully, in Saginaw Michigan, post this embarrassing incident with Mr. Boyke, police seem to now ‘get it’.

    Only patients and advocacy groups (like the nearly 30 NORML chapters in Michigan and other pro-reform organizations in the state, such as Americans for Safe Access) are working to keep law enforcement honest and respectful of the needs of medical cannabis patients.

    Question: Is the Saginaw County Sheriff’s Department and DEA going to compensate Mr. Boyke to the tune of $7,000 after they illegally destroyed his private property?

    Medical marijuana grower releases photos of basement after police visit; Saginaw County sheriff’s officials say destruction policy will change

    By Gus Burns
    The Saginaw News

    May 20, 2010

    Photo taken by Edwyn W. Boyke Jr., 64, of Saginaw Township, after police raided his home and destroyed his grow setup.


    SAGINAW — In response to the new medical marijuana laws, Saginaw County sheriff’s deputies will discontinue their policy of destroying grow equipment when they serve search warrants at the homes of medical marijuana patients or caretakers, Saginaw County Sheriff’s Detective Randy P. Pfau said.

    “Instead of destroying property, we’ll take everything in a forfeiture and let a judge make a decision on whether they’re allowed to have that property back or not,” Pfau said.

    The second look at the policy is a response by the department to the public concern regarding action taken by deputies and federal Drug Enforcement Agency agents in the basement of the home owned by Edwyn W. Boyke Jr., 64, of Saginaw Township, Pfau said.

    Police raided Boyke’s home on April 15, because they say he violated drug laws, and destroyed his grow operations, which Boyke said cost him $7,000.

    “It’s so new to us, this new law, so we’re acting on protocol that’s been in place… forever with manufacture of marijuana,” Pfau said.

    Pfau said the old norm was to take a portion of the grow equipment to present as evidence and document with rest with photographs and inventory sheets, so they didn’t need to confiscate sometimes large setups.

    Because the possession and farming of marijuana is no longer inherently illegal, due to the new state medicinal laws, Pfau said deputies will adjust their procedures.

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    Columbia Missouri Police Chief Favors Alternatives To Marijuana Prohibition
    Fri, 21 May 2010 21:35:32 By: Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director
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    From Missouri NORML:

    Missouri NORML’s and local attorney Dan Viets spoke with Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton yesterday about the need to reform cannabis laws in Missouri and to stop violent home raids (Columbia is where two dogs were recently shot in a marijuana raid that was captured on video, causing great public revulsion and concern nationwide–not only in Missouri).

    In the past Chief Burton has alluded to the need for alternative policies to straight out prohibition. The exchange yesterday between Viets and Burton–where Chief Burton acknowledges the importance of NORML’s advocacy work–was recorded and transcribed below .

    Columbia Police Chief Kenneth Burton Quote:
    “If I had a chance to catch someone breaking into a warehouse and someone with marijuana (Dan and Chief crosstalk) I applaud your effort, I mean, if we could get out of the business I am sure there would be a lot of officers happy to do that.

    Unfortunately, it is still a matter of law. The shooting that happened right after, … this came to the forefront was over marijuana. And crimes of violence do occur b/c of marijuana.

    You may make the argument that it is because it is illegal, and hey, you may be right.

    I don’t have anything against it except it is against the law.

    And as a police officer I have sworn to uphold the law. So prioritizing, when we can, you are absolutely right. We should concentrate on meth or something more serious, but we come across marijuana it is still against the law.

    I am with you on the fight, and I hope you are successful at some point and we will see how that goes.”

    Thanks to MO NORML and Chief Burton!

    Also, more good news from MO: Mayor Francis Slay of St. Louis, who announced yesterday that another member of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen is working on a marijuana decriminalization ordinance, and Slay seems to like the idea!

    He’s currently doing a poll on legalization, and reformers are winning big time!

    Please make sure you’re working with your local chapter of NORML in MO or nationwide to reform our country’s antiquated cannabis laws.

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    America Must Wean Law Enforcement From Their Marijuana Arrest Addiction
    Thu, 20 May 2010 17:23:38 By: Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director
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    George1By George Rohrbacher, Member, NORML Board of Directors

    In America since 1965, there have been 21 million arrests for marijuana, 9 out of 10 for quantities of an ounce or less. Over 800,000 were arrested for pot last year, with people of color and the young being arrested and incarcerated in hugely disproportionate numbers. Under current Washington State law, if arrested for possession of even the tiniest amount of cannabis, a person faces a mandatory night in jail, handcuffs, mugshots, fingerprints, and a criminal record that, thanks to the internet and data-mining, might follow a person for the rest of their life.

    The Mexican Cartels have murdered tens of thousands of people in their own country and now their violence is spilling over the boarder into America. Sales of marijuana in the US are estimated to account for half of the Cartels’ revenue stream. By simply legalizing pot, by taking the business and the profits of marijuana out of the hands of these criminals, taxing and regulating cannabis would be a devastating blow to organized crime. And at the same time, regulation would ensure our citizens that standards of purity and potency had been met.

    California, Oregon and Washington have all had marijuana legalization initiatives filed this year. California’s initiative already has enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, and recent polling of likely voters found that 56% plan to vote, “Yes”, on the measure come November. California’s Board of Tax Equalization has estimated that the legalization of cannabis will bring $1.4 billion in new tax revenues to the state’s cash-strapped municipalities.

    This month, a Pew Charitable Trust poll found that 73% of all Americans are in favor of legal access to marijuana as medicine. Used as medicine for over 4,500 years, the DEA’s own Chief Administrative Law Judge, Francis L. Young ruled: “Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man…” Without even holding a hearing, and over the objections of the American Medical Association, all uses of cannabis were outlawed by Congress in 1937. Since California’s passage of Prop 215 in 1996, 14 states have now taken back their medical marijuana rights from the Feds. Much safer than aspirin (gastric bleeding, death) or Tylenol (liver damage, death), marijuana is safer than virtually every other over-the-counter and prescription medicine for sale in America. Cannabis is also far safer, as a recreational drug, than either the very speedily deadly alcohol or the slowly lethal tobacco. Marijuana is not only safer for the individual, but it is safer for the society, too. A Seattle Police Sgt. patrolling Seattle Hempfest’s cannabis-imbibing 100,000 person crowd told me, “…compared to the crowds coming out of Safeco or Quest field after a game, patrolling Hempfest is like patrolling a Girl Scout picnic.”

    Through my own recreational use, I discovered marijuana the all-natural non-toxic pain medicine with far less severe side-effects than the prescription alternatives. I believe cannabis should be legal for medical, recreational, food and fiber uses. Cannabis should be legal for American farmers to grow. If cannabis is legal for all, sick people will be able to get it. Ending this prohibition, America must also wean law enforcement from its 70-year-old marijuana arrest addiction. Cannabis use didn’t turn either Michael Phelps or Barack Obama into a couch potato or a loser. It’s time to legalize it. Tax and regulate marijuana…Now.

    George Rohrbacher is a retired cattle rancher, former WA state senator (R), former Commissioner of Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, currently serving on the NORML Board of Directors (For additional information please review the titles of two of the blogs I’ve written for the NORML blog: “Confessions of a Medical Marijuana Patient” and “Marijuana Prohibition and Fatherhood”)

    This essay was originally published in the Peninsula Daily News on May 4th.
    View Comments
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