Pubdate: Thu, 16 Jun 2005
Source: Pawtucket Times (RI)
Copyright: 2005 The Pawtucket Times
Author: Jim Baron
Cited: Marijuana Policy Project ( )
Cited: Gonzales v. Raich ( )
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


PROVIDENCE -- Legislation to allow the medical use of marijuana
cleared a large hurdle Wednesday when a House committee passed it 10-2
and sent it to the full House of Representatives.

A spokesman for Gov. Donald Carcieri renewed the governor's threat to
veto the measure, but the bill's sponsor, Rep. Thomas Slater predicted
it would pass the full House with more than enough votes to override a
veto, as a companion bill did in the Senate.

The House Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) Committee amended the
bill before passing it, so it now goes to the Senate. The Senate bill
that passed last week, sponsored by Sen. Rhoda Perry, must now be
amended to match Slater's and be passed by both the Senate and House
before it goes to Carcieri's desk.

The HEW committee vote comes on the same day that the Washington,
DC-based Marijuana Policy Project began running ads on cable TV
stations that urge people to call Carcieri and support medical
marijuana. The ads feature Rhonda O'Donnell a registered nurse who
suffers from multiple sclerosis and has testified at committee
hearings in favor of permitting the medical use of marijuana. In one
ad, she talks about her father who used marijuana to relieve the pain
from the cancer that ultimately caused his death.

"People shouldn't have to fear arrest for trying to alleviate their
pain," she says, looking into the camera.

In the second spot, O'Donnell discusses her own medical problem and
urges Carcieri to support the legislation. Both ads give a telephone
number for viewers to call the governor's office. Neal said the
governor's office received 174 calls on Wednesday about the medical
marijuana issue, "with the vast majority pro-medical marijuana."

He called that "a very significant number of calls in one

Asked if that might be enough to sway the governor's thinking, Neal
said, "No."

Among the amendments added to the bill Wednesday were a sunset clause
that repeals the measure effective June 30, 2007 if it is not renewed
by the General Assembly before that time.

Slater said the intent of that clause is to give the Department of
Health and law enforcement agencies the opportunity to report any
abuses or problems with implementing the law so it could be
reconsidered by legislators. Other amendments would forbid convicted
drug felons from becoming caregivers under the act and requiring
patients registering as medical marijuana users be Rhode Island residents.

Under the legislation, if a patient with certain specified
degenerative diseases gets a prescription from his or her doctor to
use marijuana medically, the patient and his or her primary caregiver
- - a person over 18 who has agreed to assist the patient - would be
issued "registry identification cards" from the Department of Health
that would protect them from arrest, prosecution or civil penalties by
state authorities.

A patient would not be allowed to possess more than 2.5 ounces of
marijuana or 12 marijuana plants at any time.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that state medical marijuana
laws do not protect individuals from arrest and prosecution under
federal law, which still prohibits the possession and sale of marijuana.

One of the two votes against passage Wednesday was cast by Lincoln
Rep. Rene Menard. Menard, a Democrat, said he was concerned that the
legislation leaves patients and caregivers to obtain their marijuana
from an illegal source.

Menard said that while he feels for patients who believe they get
comfort and relief from marijuana use, to vote in favor of the bill
would be to say, "I condone the sale of illegal marijuana." Menard
said he might feel differently if the bill had a mechanism for people
to get medical marijuana from a source such as the state health department.

The second no vote was cast by Rep. John Loughlin, a Tiverton

Other Republicans, such as Cumberland Rep. Rick Singleton, East
Providence/Barrington Rep. Susan Story and Minority Leader Robert
Watson voted in favor, as did Democrats Joseph McNamara, the HEW
chairman and Reps. Peter Ginaitt of Warwick, Arthur Handy and Charlene
Lima of Cranston, Grace Diaz and Paul Moura of Providence and Raymond
Sullivan of Coventry. 
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