Pubdate: Thu, 30 Jun 2005
Source: Pawtucket Times (RI)
Copyright: 2005 The Pawtucket Times
Author: Jim Baron
Cited: Office of National Drug Control Policy
Cited: Marijuana Policy Project
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)


PROVIDENCE -- Saying he believes it will encourage more marijuana 
use, Gov. Donald Carcieri made good Wednesday on his threat to veto 
the medical marijuana bill.

At the same time, Carcieri also struck down a bill that would have 
increased the state's minimum wage by just under 10 percent in two years.

"This bill will make marijuana more available to children in Rhode 
Island," the governor said in a three-page veto message. "The amount 
of marijuana this bill authorizes is staggering."

Noting that the bill would allow a patient with a chronic or 
degenerative disease like cancer, multiple sclerosis, AIDS, 
Alzheimer's or Crohn's disease to possess up to 12 plants and 2.5 
ounces of useable marijuana without the risk of arrest, prosecution 
or asset forfeiture, Carcieri calculated that a single plant could 
produce up to one pound of marijuana in a year which he said 
translates to 10,886 "joints" or marijuana cigarettes annually -- 
about 30 per day.

He said the definition of which patients would be eligible to receive 
a "registry identification card" from the Department of Health on the 
recommendation of his or her doctor "is so broad that we have no idea 
how many people could be eligible."

Carcieri pointed to the state of Oregon, which he said has a 
similarly broad definition in its medical marijuana law.

"According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (commonly 
known as the Drug Czar's office)," he said, in Oregon "more than 
13,400 people who use medical marijuana are doing so for unspecified 
pain, nausea or muscle spasms not necessarily associated with 
debilitating diseases. Meanwhile, 754 people with cancer, HIV/AIDS or 
glaucoma use medical marijuana in that state. This means that only 5 
percent of those using medical marijuana in Oregon are those for whom 
the law was intended."

Because the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that state medical 
marijuana laws do not trump the federal laws criminalizing marijuana 
possession, Carcieri reasoned, "passage of this legislation will give 
a false sense of security to Rhode Island patients, caregivers and 
doctors. Rhode Islanders relying on this bill will subject themselves 
to federal prosecution."

An impassioned Rep. Thomas Slater, the House sponsor of the bill and 
one of the two people for whom the bill is named (the other is Edwin 
O. Hawkins, nephew of Sen. Rhoda Perry, the sponsor of the Senate 
version) said the veto demonstrates that Carcieri "has no compassion. 
He has proven that on this issue. Where is his compassion for the 
sick and elderly?"

Slater noted that the governor was not concerned about violating 
federal law when he allowed a bill licensing Canadian pharmacies in 
Rhode Island to become law without his signature.

Slater said he will ask House Speaker William Murphy to schedule an 
override of the veto.

Asked moments after the veto message was delivered if she would seek 
an override as well, Perry said "Yes," and walked over to Senate 
Majority Leader Teresa Paiva-Weed to make the request.

Perry said the governor's concerns about increased illegal marijuana 
use are unfounded. She said the 10 other states that also have 
medical marijuana laws have found the opposite is true. "It is not 
scientific fact at all."

Bruce Mirkin, spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana 
Policy Project, agreed that "most of what the governor says is 
demonstrably not true. He said studies have found that marijuana use 
among teenagers in states with medical marijuana laws actually went down."

The notion that Carcieri "is protecting people from federal 
prosecution by subjecting them to state prosecution is ridiculous. It 
sounds like what comes from the Drug Czar's office. The governor, 
Mirkin said, "has chosen to take his orders from (White House 
strategist) Karl Rove rather than from the Rhode Island Medical 
Society or the Rhode Island Nurse's Association.

Carcieri spokesman Jeff Neal confirmed Wednesday that two 
representatives of the Drug Czar's office, John Horton, assistant 
deputy director for state and local affairs, and Patrick Royal of the 
public affairs office met with Director of Policy Tim Costa on 
Tuesday. Neal said they told Costa that federal law on the possession 
and use of marijuana pre-empts state law and to share information on 
the medical use of marijuana. He said they wanted to assure the 
governor's staff that marijuana has not been proven to be safe and 
effective and that approved alternatives do exist.

The minimum wage bill would have increased the state's bottom salary 
from the current $6.75 per hour to $7.10 by Jan. 1, 2006, and to 
$7.40 by Jan. 1, 2007.

In his veto message, Carcieri said that should the bill become law 
"Rhode Island would have the highest minimum wage in the nation by 
Jan. 1, 2007." Neighboring Connecticut is scheduled to move to the 
same $7.40 per hour rate on Jan. 1, 2006.

"This will do nothing but exact another cost on Rhode Island 
businesses, especially small businesses, making our state even less 
competitive with our regional neighbors," he said. "Raising our 
minimum wage to the highest in the nation will hurt our state's 
economy and hinder our efforts to grow more jobs for Rhode Islanders.

"Our citizens already shoulder one of the highest state and local tax 
burdens in the nation," the Republican governor added. "We have some 
of the highest labor and energy costs as well. We should do 
everything we can to lower these costs, not increase them."

"Raising the minimum wage is not the answer," Carcieri concluded.

George Nee, secretary-treasurer of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO said he 
is "very disappointed" by the governor's veto.

"This increase would have benefited thousands of low-income workers," 
said Nee, "who are already struggling with high utility prices and 
high rents. It sends the negative message that hard work is not rewarded." 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake