Rhode Island Legalizes Use of Marijuana for Medical Purposes
The Rhode Island House on Tuesday voted 59-13 to make the state the 11th in the country to legalize medical marijuana, overriding a veto by Gov. Donald Carcieri (R), the Providence Journal reports. Carcieri vetoed the bill in June 2005, and the Senate overrode the veto the next day.
Lawmakers have been on recess for the past six months, allowing for the override before adjourning on Tuesday and then opening a new session, according to the Journal. The Rhode Island Department of Health now has 90 days to create rules and regulations for the use of medical marijuana.
Once the rules are implemented, people wishing to use medical marijuana will need to obtain a signed statement by a physician that "the potential benefits of the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the health risks for the qualifying patient." DOH will then have 30 days to approve or deny the application and another five days to issue identity cards to approved individuals.
Anyone with an ID card will be immune from state criminal and civil prosecution or disciplinary action by employers, as long as they possess no more than 12 plants or 2.5 ounces of marijuana. The law does not protect cardholders from federal prosecution.
DOH is required to report to the legislature on Jan. 1, 2007, regarding the status of the program. The law will expire on June 30, 2007, unless it is extended.
Ten other states have enacted laws to legalize the use of medical marijuana: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.
State Rep. Thomas Slater (D), the House sponsor of the bill, said the program "will grant mercy and relief to the sick and suffering" (Mayerowitz et al., Providence Journal, 1/4).
However, Carcieri said, "Users will be forced to purchase marijuana in the illegal street market, putting them at risk and complicating the difficult jobs that our law enforcement personnel must do every day."
Tom Riley, a spokesperson for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said the law represented a "misguided and out-of-touch" view on marijuana, adding, "There's this notion from the '60s or the '70s that marijuana is a harmless drug. It's not" (Johnson, AP/Long Island Newsday, 1/3).