Rhode Island Challenges Federal Ban By Authorizing Cultivation And Sale Of Marijuana

Originally published, July 1, 2009, by University of Pittsburgh Law School publication, The Jurist.
Despite the glamorization on the hit Showtime series ‘Weeds’, flashy documentaries on CNBC delving into the business side of California’s multi-billion dollar annual cannabis industry derived from Californian’s unprecedented 13-year old legal access to medical cannabis products—qualifying patients in the state (and there are hundreds of thousands of them currently) can access high-quality medical cannabis via 24/7 vending machines in cities like Los Angeles—is Rhode Island the little state that is saying ‘yes we cannabis’ the loudest via their legislature?

‘Californication’ Of Cannabis
While California is clearly at the vanguard of implementing major legal and policy changes in seeming conflict with the federal government’s 72-year old cannabis prohibition laws, in fact little ol’ Rhode Island is on the precipice of effectively breaking the federal government’s ban on the cultivation and sale of cannabis by joining New Mexico as the only states favoring medical cannabis laws to have state-sanctioned medical cannabis cultivators and retail outlets for qualifying medical patients.
While there are an estimated 1,800-2,000 medical cannabis dispensaries (or in the new post Mentch parlance, cannabis wellness centers) in California alone, few of them are genuinely, legally sanctioned under state laws to sell cannabis in a retail environment. However, this blooming of cannabis wellness centers in California has happened under the full view of law enforcement, state policy makers and the public health community. Californians have ‘Main Street’ access to cannabis in many parts of the Golden State, which has evolved entirely organically—in other words, the mores and values of most Californians largely accept cannabis use, whether for recreational or medicinal purposes.
A recent Field poll of California voters affirms this with 56% support for outright legalization.
In Rhode Island, there is no highly refined ‘cannabis culture’, or longstanding public cannabis law reform efforts to speak of—unlike Californians that have publicly debated ‘legalizing’ cannabis on numerous statewide ballot initiatives and legislative proposals going back to the early 1970s—yet, Rhode Island’s legislators, from both parties and chambers, in opposition to the Governor and numerous federal government’s anti-drug bureaucracies (i.e., DEA, ONDCP, NIDA, DOJ, FBI, etc…) first passed a ‘self-preservation’ medical cannabis law two years ago [a ‘self-preservation’ medical cannabis model is defined as a qualified patient, for which a severely limited number of medical ailments qualify for cannabis use (i.e., Cancer, AIDS, Glaucoma, Epilepsy and MS), can legally possess or grow a small amount of cannabis; there is no legal retail access to cannabis, seeds or plant cuttings (clones)].

The Little State That Says To Washington: ‘Yes We Cannabis!’

However, Rhode Island legislators, only two years after passage of the original medical cannabis laws, recognized that a self-preservation model is inadequate to serve the needs of sick, dying or sense-threatened patients who need whole-smoked cannabis and edibles. Again, in full opposition to the Governor and federal agencies, overrode their second veto to establish Rhode Island as the first bona fide state to legally sanction and license third parties to cultivate and sell cannabis (in the case of Rhode Island, the recent medical cannabis legislation has provided initial approval to three medical cannabis wellness centers for the entire state).
While New Mexico may have officially been the first state to pass legislation in 2007 that allows for the state-sanctioned distribution of medical cannabis to qualified patients, the medical cannabis program has been very slow to get-off-the-ground, and to date has issued a single permit, and no medical cannabis is expected to be lawfully sold in New Mexico for at least another 6 months to a year. Rhode Island, at its current breakneck speed of passing pro-medical cannabis law reforms, will very likely be the first state out of the gate to effectively end the federal government’s complete prohibition against cannabis distribution by cultivating and harvesting a crop of medical cannabis by early fall.
The Major Legal and Policy Implications Sparked By Rhode Island
If past serves as prologue, under the prior four presidential administrations (Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Bush), their Departments of Justice most certainly would have raced to federal court and sought to have any state law that allowed medical cannabis to be cultivated and distributed found to be in clear violation of the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, The Single Convention Treaty of 1961 (the international treaty that effectively made cannabis illegal throughout the world) and stare decisis.
Even numerous full-throated law reformers would concede the strong position the federal government had attained after eight decades of zealous enforcement of anti-cannabis laws.
However, Rhode Island’s challenge to the federal government’s cannabis prohibition becomes increasingly interesting to political observers and policy wonks in light of President Obama’s decidedly different take on the latitude he is comfortable providing states to craft their own medical cannabis laws.
To wit, 1) Attorney General Holder indicated in February that the DEA is no longer going to target and harass state compliant medical cannabis providers in states that adopt medical cannabis laws, and 2) In May, the executive branch issued a memorandum, interestingly entitled, ‘Preemption’ to all federal agency heads, in effect instructing them to no longer oppose states (or their voters) seeking greater autonomy to pass laws that may possibly be in conflict with federal laws (i.e., medical cannabis laws, etc…), and to only oppose them if there is a positive conflict with federal laws resulting in genuine risks to national security.
While it is hard to swing a dead cat in the Los Angeles-area these days without hitting the cued up patrons of medical cannabis wellness centers, Rhode Island looks to be the very first state to officially end cannabis prohibition, and the feds appear ready to stand down.
Now, if you’re a cannabis consumer or lover of liberty, this is ‘change’ one can believe in!

0 thoughts

  1. I would like to note that only one state back in the hysterical 1920’s said “screw off” to Prohibition.
    Rhode Island. They alone never ratified the law.
    The only state amongst the 50 that didn’t fall for the Christian Temperance movement’s near-country-ruining Un-American patently-unworkable, expensive, corrosive boondoggle called Prohibition I.

  2. I want to know how in the hell long are the rest of us Americans going to have to wait to get the right to use medical cannabis legally. I have had a letter writing, phone call making campaign going for years now and they just keep saying NO here in Arkansas. I just wish that there would be some good news for use for once not to sound to much like a little baby crying but there are people all over this country that are sick and hurting that are having to break the law just to get the relief that they should be getting legally.

  3. C’mon Florida, you can do it! Get with the program! We’re the “island” state, with all our tiki huts and reggae, and flip flops I can’t believe we haven’t even decriminalized it yet!!! Step up to the plate Florida, start getting your act together!
    (>^_^)></////W~~~~ Excuse me while I light my spliff!

  4. I read that California was the first or second state (besides Texas) which prohibited cannabis before the Harrison Act. Then they passed the med pot bill in 1996. I did not know that Rhode Island did not ratify Prohibition. Looks like a big “screw you” to the feds yet again.
    The people have spoken!!!

  5. Now I know our leaders have lost thier minds. I just heard they are talking bout forcing americans to buy health insurance or they have to pay 1000$ or more in fines! How the hell is a person gonna pay the freakin fines if they cant pay for health insurance in the first place. Whats next? Jail if you dont pay the fine. We are in serious danger here people. This little hell they are creating is for us not them. Damned if we do damned if we dont.They are slowly lawing people right into a cage.
    I really wish we could get cannabis legalized,there are so many other issues out there that are just as important ,or more so, to focus on also. We have to pull back real hard on the reigns where our leaders are concerned. Theres to much going on at once here. They are just sliding shit by us at an ever increasing rate while our focus is in other areas.
    Its really up to the states to push these leaders back. Its up to the states to bring some sanity to American again.

  6. SWEET! This is amazing news! I want to move from Texas to Rhode Island! Yes we Cannabis!

  7. Now what other states will follow suit? May be now the govt. will listen or how would they like it when one day majority if not all states does the same thing. Will they listen to us? The govt is in the position to do the right thing and help America but will they by keeping marijuana illegal and in prohibition or are they just going to continue to do all the wrong things and destroy America ? Remember the Roman empire? Well If the govt does not listen to its people the govt is most likely to end up the same way as the Roman empire fell….. We have asked we even questioned yet they do nothing NOW We demand to end the marijuana prohibition but will the Govt do it or shall history repeat its self again…? The time to make a difference and do the right thing of legalization of marijuana is NOW…. Lets all live free and in harmony be for it is too late….. UNTIL that time we must on our end due all we can to ensure our rights and freedom until this endless war has been ended through the legalization & taxation & even decriminalization of Marijuana…..We must continue to FIGHT THIS UNTIL VICTORY .

  8. FANTASTIC!! Getting closer all the time..just hope its legal before i die..i’m 57 and been smoking pot for 41 years

  9. “…Christian Temperance movement’s near-country-ruining Un-American patently-unworkable, expensive, corrosive boondoggle called Prohibition I.”
    And the same puritanical streak is responsible for the past seventy years of oppression.

  10. I am currently a medical cannabis patient in New Mexico. It is my understanding that a non profit dispensary is going to be ready to harvest the first crop in New Mexico in August. This is according to the Department of Health. I would also add that New Mexico also is currently looking at around 12 other applications to be “non-profit” dispensaries. This also is according to the Department of Health. I also understand there are only around 300-350 cannabis patients in New Mexico. However, I am unsure of the accuracy of the amount of patients. It is still in its infant stages here.

  11. Probably the greatest thing I have heard for the last six months about marijuana. Bet 3,000,000 dollars no such legizlation will get done in any of the other 49 states. Stupid polticians, seems as Rohde Island is the only state that has the biggest balls. It deserves the slogan : “Fuck your couch ! ” (added by Mobile using Mippin)

  12. Prohibit?
    Who iS the U.S Government to tell each person how to stay Healthy…its a personaL choice to smoke…

  13. At most… the U.S Government should ONLY educate people the Effects of Smoking PerioD~

  14. I bet we don’t hear about this on network tv. The truth about cannibus and the cultivation of hemp is rolling in like the tide. I hope all of the politicians are paying attention. Way to go Rhode Island!!! It has become” The Little State That Cannibus”. And all this time I thought California was the most progressive state.

  15. Hell yeah, my state! I watched the progress of this bill through the House and Senate, booed when the Govenor vetoed, and cheered when the veto was overridden.
    Home of piracy, rum-running, and now the end of cannabis prohibition!
    Proud to be a Rhode Islander!

  16. I think the federal position is weaker than anyone realises right now. Partly why I get so annoyed when our side bends to weak demands when submitting new bills.
    RI is one of the most encouraging states in the union right now. They are leading in the right direction. I admire their will, too. I hope when Massachusetts makes it’s next move it will be a double step. We have a lot of quiet leaders in MA who climbed the ladder of success by prosecuting and jailing drug users, though. I worry we might surprise everyone and end up being one of the most restrictive states in the east.

  17. I guess the most level headed politicians reside in Rhode Island.
    Anyways this is awesome, I am going to college 45 minutes away from RI, I might have to swing by every few weeks if this happens in the near future.

  18. Let’s celebrate!!!!
    On July 1, 2009 the California Third District Court of Appeals issued a landmark ruling on the right under state law, of 11362.5 Qualified Patients to “collectively cultivate.”
    Of late…the California Appellate Courts, California and U.S. Supreme Courts have provided Californians with many reasons to celebrate.
    In California…the newest pole results shows 56% in favor of total legalization. Where medicinal cannabis is concerned, a growing 80% in favor dominates the vote.
    Am I trying to give everyone “HOPE”…you bet your ass I am. But at the same time…remember…we’ve been at it, like rabid dogs, since 1996. So I say…”KEEP THE FAITH BABY!” CAUTION: Don’t let this victory cause anyone to relax.

  19. This is good, but i’m saying. Prohibition 1 was stopped more by trial by jury, and breaking the law.
    Back then people knew it was their right to declare a not guilty verdict regardless of what the law said, juries are supposed to judge wether a law is just to enforce in the first place. 50% of cases were ending in not guilty verdicts.
    This system of criminal justice were called the laws of King Edward the Confessor a Saxon king. King Alfred the Great asserted these laws in his unification of Saxon England by hanging judges attempting to circumvent legem terrae, law of the land, that is our english common law. Magna Carta was written and fought for based on these principles.
    To lose history is to lose ourselves.

  20. Hi I just got off from workin a 6am-9pm shift like many Americans that are strugaling to stay afloat now days! Right about now my body is feeling very fatigued. Its sad that its illegal for me to sit here and smoke a joint to help my body relax from being out in the heat all day! I work everyday and pay my taxes,(have since I was 17 years old) and I think its time to legalize cannabis nationwide! So that us hard working Americans can relax when we get off, just to get up and do it all over again! I dont see no wrong doing in that and many others agree. The ones that do not, have been blind folded by the government! If we find a way to get the blind folds off, I believe we would say bye to prohibition!

  21. Wow. I went to my email and I saw the NORM blog notice. I looked at the title of the most recent blog and it said, Rhode Island Challenges Federal Ban By Authorizing Cultivation And Sale Of Marijuana”
    But do you know what I thought it said as I leaped to the blog site? I thought it said “Rhode Island Challanges Federal Ban by ‘Legalizing’ Cultivation and Sale of Marijuana. I started reading and was suprised to see it didn’t say that. I had to go back to my email and read the title again.
    Did anyone else suffer from the same momentary confusion? Does anyone else not yet see the difference between “legalization” and “authorization”? No, rest assured, if you are in Rhode Island and do not have the right connections to get a doctor’s permission to use cannabis and the police catch you, you will continue to belong to them, in some way, until they are quite certain you have repented what those who claim to be sick don’t have to repent.

  22. Hi to Jerry Moler – I’m with you 100%! The truth…is R O L L I N G I N L I K E T H E T I D E!!!!!
    Hooray America – celebrate! Celebrate! Hooray to Rhode Island. Today is my birthday – I am 54 years young. I hope to meet (at least see several thousand of us) in San Francisco for the NORML Conference. God Bless America – this is the best birthday present anyone like me could ever dream for. Thank you my fellow Americans for overdue vindication for myself and everyone, every SINGLE one of us. Amen.
    Wendy in Good ‘ole Utah.
    Farmers of America, let’s make a clean sweep of the evidence lockers of precious hemp seeds. May the lush green hills roll forward…Amen.

  23. # 1 Mark Godfrey: Interesting information, thanks for posting that.
    While its encouraging to see RI moving so quickly on this, I still think Medical Marijuana just clouds the real issue which is the need for full out legalization. Then and only then will evreyone be happy.

  24. this paragraph doesn’t make sense: Despite the glamorization on the hit Showtime series ‘Weeds’, flashy documentaries on CNBC delving into the business side of California’s multi-billion dollar annual cannabis industry derived from Californian’s unprecedented 13-year old legal access to medical cannabis products—qualifying patients in the state (and there are hundreds of thousands of them currently) can access high-quality medical cannabis via 24/7 vending machines in cities like Los Angeles—is Rhode Island the little state that is saying ‘yes we cannabis’ the loudest via their legislature?

  25. Happy Birthday to Wendy in Utah! I’m also 54 years old and a Veitnam Vet. I hope all of our efforts to be free from this tyranny pays off before our generation passes. To all of the baby boomers out there it is our time to show who is the greatest generation by freeing this nation of Harry Anslingers attempt to destroy our hard fought freedoms. The authors of our constitution must be rolling over in their graves. Freedom isn’t free. Please support NORML any way you can. The tide of truth rolls on!!!

  26. Always remember that during the prohibition of alcohol, you could also get alcohol with a physician’s prescription,
    Authorizing “medical marijuana” is not anti-prohibitionist, it is hard evidence of prohibition itself. This is not progress. Always look to one of three important indicators that the prohibition of cannabis is ending: No more time under the authority of law enforcement and especially no jail time. Unrestricted cultivation of cannabis for purposes not relating to drug use. The price of flower and leaf diminishes dramatically to practically nothing.
    It shouldn’t cost any more for an ounce of cannabis leaf than it does an ounce of oregano and maybe a little more for flower. How can anyone claim to be compassionate with marijuana medical dispensaries and then turn around and charge black market prices?

  27. Our smallest state is close to changing our entire country. Good luck Rhode Island, I’m sure you have well over half of the country’s support!

  28. It’s cool that Rhode Island is making this happen, but what I’d really like to see is legal hemp. Us stoners and patients can wait a little longer, but with hemp we could change the world.

  29. Jesse: Why put stoners’ rights behind that of hemp? There are people who are suffering, so are you going to tell them that they can “wait a little longer” so that we may proceed with agriculture? I agree that hemp is a wonder plant and should be as legal as corn, or tomatoes. I guess I want it all, and I want it now

  30. WTF why why why if this is true then u lucky basterds get to be the 1st state to be unshakeld ple dont fuk this up RI hold on to this freedom with blood if you have to

  31. I agree with Rick.
    I just argued with my best friend of thirty years, one of whom I cherish.
    This particular person is a functioning alcoholic. This person is afraid for me right now because they know I am speaking my mind. They think that the same thing could happen to me all over again but no, I think not.
    Here is a prime example of the sick, weary, uneducated, oppressed and brainwashed society that we have become.
    I am not afraid in the least. What could possibly happen to me? I told my initial attorney all along way back then (1997) that my Freedom of Religion was being broken. He looked at me like I was insane or something when I told him that the Bible says that “it is God who grows the seed”. That we might throw it down and water it but, “it is God who grows the seed.”
    Now please someone try to tell me once again. Did our forefathers not flee to America in the first place in order to have religious freedom? Do I not reside in the great State of Utah, United States of America?
    My proud heritage is English/German. My Great Grandparents and Grandparents were of course, farmers and trappers who settled the land, here in good ‘ole Utah.
    In 1996 there was a $500,000 cash crop found in our prarie. There have been $3 million and $6 million finds in our canyons. Where did all of those seeds comes from? I will ask this question until I take my last breathe of air on this earth.
    No my friend just doesn’t understand. This person likes cannabis but their job won’t allow that of course. So this dear friend of mine, I just don’t have any answers for. Just that time and the Almighty Truth marches on I guess. I nag at this person and everyone around me though to, “put out that stogey!” Oh, that means the deadly tobacco they are inhaling constantly. May God please bless us all…thanks for listening…
    T H E T R U T H I S R O L L I N G I N W I T H T H E T I D E….Amen.
    P.S. My friend accused me of being over-zealot on these issues now. Does anyone agree with this friend of mine?
    Please advise. Wendy ReNae Warr Elorriaga.

  32. Yea, I would have been there, Had I known, all these years, I’d been there every year, come hell or high water. I have been a smoker a long long time and had this information been privy to the masses, then the cause would go forward, as needed. Apparently our fearless leaders made another “phathaaaath’ and we got left behind. Once shame on you, Twice, shame on me. And I don’t like to be had for a second time. SEE YOU NEXT YEAR AT THE CAPITAL LAWN TO SMOKE CANNIBUS WITH ALL MY FELLOW CANNIBUS SMOKER, WISHING WE WERE FREE COUNTRY MEN.

  33. 39 Wendy from Good ‘ole Utah…Manny here!
    The spirit of God is “WITHIN YOU.” Within your soul, Logos Nous…”Two Spirits in one Soul,” your spirit and God’s spirit stand for what you believe in. You need not answer to, or justify your actions to anyone or anything else. Let your spirit out, and follow youur spirit to life
    Wendy…check out the Religious Freedom Protection Act of 1996…you’ll find the answer there. Keep the faith baby.

  34. Thanks Manny. Back at ‘ya baby.
    #40..Al Menefee, I think the saying which former President Bush stuggled with is:
    You can fool me once, you can fool me twice…
    But fool me thrice and I’m the fool!

  35. 43. NeuroGenesis1:29 Says: Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    July 9th, 2009 at 9:04 am
    As the erudite canine said before…
    It’s time for Quahog to
    legalize marijuana!
    Never mind,
    They removed that musical-video…
    FFWD to 10min
    into episode to view it…

  36. 42 Wendy from Good ‘ole Utah….Manny here…and…
    thanks for losing the Mr.
    There’s one President that didn’t have a struggle with his saying.
    “You can fool some of the people, all of the time.
    You can fool all of the people, some of the time.
    But…you can’t fool all of the people, all of the time.

  37. there gonna be a revival….
    there gonna BE a revival….
    THERE GONNA BE A REVIVAL….Amen to Nations. Amen.

  38. Rhode Island – I Myself have barely ever heard of the place.
    But kno-w w-onder w-hy?
    I sure am glad and happy that now I do know though.
    My Spirit Soars Up On The Wing ‘Ore The Ocean Blue.
    I can clearly see Rhode Island In My Mind. NOW…Amen.
    Amen Oh Lord God Amen. Almighty In His Might!
    Give Glory To Salvation
    Steadfast In His Might!
    Onward Christian Soldiers
    Go Onward In The Fight.
    To The King Of Israel Give Glory To His Deeds. Amen.
    Onward Chirstian Soldiers.
    Marching Off To War
    With The Flags Of Freedom
    Going On Before…

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