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Rhode Island Medical Marijuana

SUMMARY: The Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act took effect immediately upon passage on January 3, 2006. The law removes state-level criminal penalties on the use, possession and cultivation of marijuana by patients who possess "written certification" from their physician stating, "In the practitioner's professional opinion, the potential benefits of the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the health risks for the qualifying patient." Patients diagnosed with the following illnesses are afforded legal protection under this act: cachexia; cancer; glaucoma; Hepatitis C; severe, debilitating, chronic pain; severe nausea; seizures, including but not limited to, those characteristic of epilepsy; or severe and persistent muscle spasms, including but not limited to, those characteristic of multiple sclerosis or Crohn's Disease; or agitation of Alzheimer's Disease. Other conditions are subject to approval by the Rhode Island Department of Health. Patients (and/or their primary caregivers) may legally possess 2.5 ounces of cannabis and/or 12 plants, and their cannabis must be stored in an indoor facility. The law establishes a mandatory, confidential state-run patient registry that issues identification cards to qualifying patients. Patients who do not register with the Department of Health, but have received certification from their physician to use medicinal cannabis, may raise an affirmative defense at trial.

RECIPROCITY: Yes. Authorizes a patient with a debilitating medical condition, with a registry identification card (or its equivalent), to engage in the medical use of marijuana. Also authorizes a person to assist with the medical use of marijuana by a patient with a debilitating medical condition. R.I. Gen. Laws § 21-28.6-4(k) (2006).

AMENDMENTS: Yes.

In June 2007, the Rhode Island House and Senate enacted legislation eliminating the sunset clause of the The Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act, making the provisional program permanent

ADDITIONAL AMENDMENTS: Yes.

In 2009, lawmakers enacted legislation authorizing the establishment of state-licensed not-for-profit 'compassion centers' to "acquire, possess, cultivate, manufacture, deliver, transfer, transport, supply or dispense marijuana, or related supplies and educational materials, to registered qualifying patients and their registered primary caregivers." The Rhode Island Department of Health will oversee the licensing and regulating of these facilities. Copies of the regulations are available for public inspection in the Cannon Building, Room #201, Rhode Island Department of Health, 3 Capitol Hill, Providence, Rhode Island, on the Department's website: http://www.health.ri.gov/ or the Secretary of State's website: http://www.sos.ri.gov/rules/, by calling 401-222-7767 or by e-mail to Bill.Dundulis@health.ri.gov.

However, in October 2011, Gov. Lincoln Chafee announced that he was suspending the licensing system indefinitely, stating: "I have decided that the State of Rhode Island cannot proceed with the licensing and regulation of medical marijuana compassion centers under current law. ... I have received communications from both the United States Department of Justice and from the United States Attorney for the District of Rhode Island that large scale commercial operations such as Rhode Island's compassion centers will be potential targets of 'vigorous' criminal and civil enforcement efforts by the federal government. I cannot implement a state marijuana cultivation and distribution system which is illegal under federal law and which will become a target of federal law enforcement efforts. I am hopeful that the General Assembly will introduce new legislation in the upcoming session that will address the flaws in, and indeed make improvement to, the existing medical marijuana card and caregiver system while not triggering federal enforcement actions."

ADDITIONAL AMENDMENTS: Yes.

In 2010, lawmakers enacted legislation, House Bill 8172, ensuring the confidentiality of medical marijuana patients' records. The law states, in part, "Applications and supporting information submitted by qualifying patients, including information regarding their primary caregivers and practitioners, are confidential and protected under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, and shall be exempt from the provisions of the RIGL chapter 38-2 et seq. the Rhode Island access to public records act and not subject to disclosure, except to authorized employees of the department as necessary to perform official duties of the department."

ADDITIONAL AMENDMENTS: Yes.

On Tuesday, May 22, 2012, Gov. Lincoln Chafee signed legislation, SB 2555, into law authorizing state regulators to license three small-scale 'compassion centers.' Under the law, compassion centers will not be allowed to cultivate more than 150 cannabis plants on the premises at any one time, only 99 of which may be mature. Centers will also be restricted to possessing no more than 1,500 ounces of usable product at any one time. Gov. Chafee had previously halted the implementation of a similar program, fearing that it would allow for the establishment of large-scale operations that would be targeted by federal law enforcement officials.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA STATUTES: The Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act, R.I. Gen. Laws § 21-28.6 (2006).

CAREGIVERS: Yes. The caregiver must be 21 years of age or older. Primary caregiver may assist no more than 5 qualifying patients with their medical use of marijuana. R.I. Gen. Laws 1956, §21-28.6-3 (9) (2006).

CONTACT INFORMATION: http://www.health.state.ri.us/
Application Forms are available at www.health.ri.gov/hsr/mmp/index.php or by visiting room 104 at the Health Department, 3 Capitol Hill, Providence.

More helpful information can be found here: http://ripatients.org/.






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