HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html House Passes Medical Marijuana Bill
Pubdate: Thu, 23 Jun 2005
Source: Pawtucket Times (RI)
Copyright: 2005 The Pawtucket Times
Author: Jim Baron
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)


PROVIDENCE -- With legislation to allow seriously ill people to use 
marijuana as medicine having passed both chambers of the General Assembly 
by veto-proof margins, Rep. Thomas Slater is calling on Gov. Donald 
Carcieri to withdraw his threat to veto the bill.

The House of Representatives passed a medical marijuana bill Wednesday by a 
52-10 margin - after amending it to add Slater's name to the title. A 
slightly different version of the bill passed the Senate two weeks ago on a 
34-2 vote.

"I hope the governor realizes that the people of Rhode Island support this 
bill by over 70 percent," Slater told reporters after the vote.

Pointing out that there are sufficient yea votes in both the House and 
Senate to override a veto, Slater said the governor "should take note of 
that and let it become law without his signature."

That apparently won't be the case.

Spokesman Jeff Neal said, "Governor Carcieri and every law enforcement 
officer in the state took an oath to uphold the laws of this country and 
this would place them in an untenable position. Federal law states that 
marijuana is a banned substance and the Supreme Court recently upheld the 
primacy of federal law over state law."

Slater's bill was sent immediately to the Senate and later on Wednesday a 
similar Senate bill, sponsored by Sen. Rhoda Perry, was amended by the 
House Health, Education and Welfare Committee to make it identical with 
Slater's and passed to the full House.

If both chambers move expeditiously to pass each other's bills, Slater 
said, "before the session is over we will know what the governor's decision 

Under the legislation, a seriously ill patient certified by the state 
Department of Health as having certain chronic or debilitating diseases 
such as cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis and Crohn's disease 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 

The House version of the bill has a sunset provision and will expire June 
30, 2007 if it is not renewed.

Before that time, the DOH will provide the legislature with a report 
detailing whether there have been any known abuses of the law or arrests 
connected with it.

Providence Rep. Steven Costantino, who sponsored earlier versions of the 
bill in previous years, said, "To me, it has always been a matter of 
compassion, simple compassion.

"I've always been amused about the fear that something like this is going 
to cause this all of a sudden irrational move to do marijuana," Costantino 
continued. "That we are going to have an illegal substance out there that 
is not there right now. I have always been amused because I look at some of 
the legal drugs -- alcohol, the most abused drug ever. One of the most 
abused prescribed drugs, vicadin, has caused more harm in this society than 
any illegal drug like marijuana could ever (do)."

Costantino said he has not seen problems in any of the other 10 states that 
allow the use of medical marijuana.

"What I have read is that people who are ill, people who are in pain, 
whether it is cancer or glaucoma or wasting away because of HIV and AIDS, 
their pain is being reduced. And their quality of life, their end-of-life 
issues are maybe as not as bad" as someone who doesn't use medical 
marijuana, he said.

Rep. Joseph McNamara, who chairs the House HEW committee answered questions 
about federal prohibition by quoting a federal Drug Enforcement 
Administration official as saying "the vast majority of our cases are 
against those involved in trafficking and major cultivation and 
distribution. We don't target sick and dying people."

Among those voting against the bill were Lincoln Rep. Rene Menard who said 
a vote in favor would be tantamount to condoning the illegal sale of a 
controlled substance. "Someone is going to purchase it illegally to use it 
legally. What happens if that dealer sells to my kid?" Menard asked.

Pointing to the two-year sunset provision, Warwick Rep. Al Gemma said, 
"let's try it, what have we got to lose?"

Gemma said he would break the law to get marijuana "for someone in their 
last days."

Minority Leader Robert Watson, who frequently complains about the influence 
of special interests at the Statehouse, said the federal government "has a 
gorilla in the game when you have the pharmaceutical industry in 
Washington, DC with their heavy-handedness." 
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