Pubdate: Tue, 13 Dec 2005
Source: Pawtucket Times (RI)
Copyright: 2005 The Pawtucket Times
Author: Jim Baron
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


PROVIDENCE -- Billboards are usually intended to spread a message to a
broad array of people - the thousands or tens of thousands who drive
past on a highway or other busy road, for instance.

The billboard at Orms and State streets, however, has a target
audience of just 75: the membership of the House of Representatives,
which meets at the Statehouse just a block away starting next month.

It was erected by a group that wants the House to override Gov. Donald
Carcieri's veto of the medical marijuana bill passed by the General
Assembly earlier this year. Unlike its splashier, more colorful
cousins, the message put up on the roadside sign by the RI Patient
Advocacy Coalition consists of three stark lines of type on a plain
white background. It says: "Protect medical marijuana patients ...
Don't leave us out in the cold ... Override the governor's veto!"

The last chance for that to happen will come on Jan. 3, when the
General Assembly returns for its 2006 session. The House of
Representatives, whose 2005 session is still technically in recess,
could vote to override before formally adjourning the previous session
and starting a new one.

The Senate already voted to override the governor's veto last July,
before it left for its summer recess, so an override by the House
would make the law effective.

Under the legislation, a seriously ill patient could be certified by
the state Department of Health, after a doctor's recommendation, as
having certain chronic or debilitating diseases such as cancer, AIDS,
multiple sclerosis and Crohn's disease. That patient and up to two
"primary caregivers" would be immune from arrest, prosecution,
forfeiture or other penalty for possessing up to 2.5 ounces of
"useable marijuana," or 12 marijuana plants. The primary caregiver
must be over 21-years-old and not be a convicted drug felon.

In his veto message, Carcieri said the effect of the legislation would
be to "make marijuana more available to children in Rhode Island." He
also said the bill's definition of illness that would qualify a person
to receive medical marijuana is overly broad.

At a press conference Monday beneath the billboard, Rep. Thomas
Slater, the author of the House bill confidently predicted an override

"The Speaker (of the House William Murphy) has given his word that he
will take a vote on it," Slater told The Times.

Murphy himself was a bit more vague, saying through spokesman Larry Berman:
"The leadership is committed to making all efforts to pass Representative
Slater's legislation."

It takes 45 votes for the House to override a veto, the medical
marijuana bill got 52 votes in the House when it originally passed.

Chris Butler, executive director of AIDS Project Rhode Island, said,
"I am here today to urge the RI House of Representatives to take up
the Rhode Island Medical Marijuana bill as their first order of
business on Jan. 3 and to join the state Senate in overriding the
governor's misguided veto of this sensible, humane bill..f the House
adjourns the 2005 session on Jan. 3 without taking up the veto, we
will be forced to begin the entire process again, further delaying
much needed relief for people with illnesses such as end stage AIDS.

Dr. Margaret Sun, president of the RI Academy of Family Physicians,
said, "My job as a physician is to be one who provides comfort for
patients and helps in whatever way I can. This allows me one more
medication that I can provide to my patients."

"It shouldn't be a crime for me not to live my life in pain," said
Warren Dolbashain, 34, who uses marijuana to treat Tourette's syndrome
and chronic, debilitating pain resulting from a motorcycle accident.

"In the eyes of Rhode Island law, I am a criminal for using a medicine
that allows me to be functional," Dolbashian said.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake