Pubdate: Thu, 15 Feb 2007
Source: Pawtucket Times (RI)
Copyright: 2007 The Pawtucket Times
Author: Jim Baron
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Chronic Pain)


PROVIDENCE -- "The sky has definitely not fallen" as a result of Rhode
Island's law permitting the use of medical marijuana by gravely ill
patients, said Sen. Rhoda Perry. "It's gone exactly as we expected,"
she said. "A relatively small number of people, for whom more
traditional pain treatment hasn't been effective, have been referred
by their physician and have used the program successfully to relieve
their pain. It has worked virtually without incident and has proven to
be an effective program that doesn't promote abuse.

It's time to make it permanent," So Perry, who sponsored the measure
in the Senate, and Rep. Thomas Slater, who championed it in the House,
are looking to remove a "sunset clause" in the current law that would
cause it to expire on June 30 if it is not reauthorized. Slater told
The Times Thursday he already has 30 co-sponsors for the bill on the
House side and hopes to get more when the Assembly returns from its
weeklong winter recess at the end of the month. Slater said he does
not anticipate problems getting the bill passed again. "I've heard
good things, even people who didn't want their name on it (as
co-sponsors) have said they will support it," the Providence
legislator said. "Marijuana has been proven to give relief for people
suffering with painful, debilitating diseases for which no other pain
medication has been effective," Slater said. "Now we have a year of
history with this program that shows us that letting those people use
marijuana helps them and that this program doesn't hurt anybody else.

We made a compassionate decision to allow medical marijuana use last
year, and now we should reaffirm that commitment to permanently grant
mercy to suffering Rhode Islanders," The bill would change only
slightly from its current form, which allows individuals with a
doctor's certification that they have a debilitating medical condition
such as cancer, AIDS and multiple sclerosis to posses up to 12 plants
or 2.5 ounces of "useable marijuana" without fear of state
prosecution. Each patient can register two "caregivers" with the
Department of Health who would be allowed to possess the same amount
of the drug without fear of arrest or prosecution. The law does not
provide a way to obtain the drug, however; it still must be procured
on the black market. Marijuana remains illegal under federal drug
laws, but the vast majority of drug arrests come at the state level,
and the federal Drug Enforcement Agency generally targets major
traffickers, not individual users. According to the Department of
Health, 229 patients and 218 caregivers have registered for the
program, and there are 10 patients and three caregivers with pending
applications. Slater said there was only one incident of the law being
abused in the past year. A 48-year-old man from Exeter, Steven
Trimarco, was arrested for allegedly meeting with teenage girls online
and offering to smoke marijuana with them. Amendments in this year's
bill include making the registration cards patients obtain from the
Department of Health valid for two years, rather than requiring annual
registration, and caregivers would be limited to 24 plants or five
ounces of the drug, no matter how many patients they serve. Slater
said the health department thought allowing caregivers with five
patients permission to have five times the limit for a single
individual was excessive. The original legislation passed over the
veto of Gov. Donald Carcieri but spokesman Jeff Neal said Thursday
that the governor has not taken a position on the new bill.
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