Medical Marijuana: Bill to Make Rhode Island Law Permanent Passes House, Senate Committees

(Interested parties in or near Rhode Island should check out the SSDP Northeast Regional Conference in Providence from later today through Sunday.)
leading RI patient activist Rhonda O'Donnell, at DC protest
A bill that would make Rhode Island's medical marijuana law permanent is headed for House and Senate floor votes after the House Health, Education and Welfare Committee passed it on a 10-3 vote Tuesday and the Senate Health and Human Services Committee passed it on a unanimous voice vote Wednesday. Unless HB 6005 and its companion legislation in the Senate, SB 0791, pass, the Rhode Island medical marijuana program will be ended on June 30.

The Rhode Island legislature last year overrode a veto by Gov. Donald Carcieri (R) to make the state the 11th to legalize medical marijuana, but the final version of the measure included a sunset provision. So far, some 244 Rhode Islanders have registered with the state to use the drug with medical approval.

One of those patients, Craig Paquette of Richmond, who suffers severe spinal pain from injuries suffered in a car wreck fifteen years ago, as well as serious side effects from narcotic pain relievers, praised the House committee vote. "I do not want my family to see me suffer. I am off the painkillers now, and with a little marijuana, my pain is reduced, my sick stomach goes away, and I feel human again," he said in a statement after the vote. "Because of this law, I have a quality of life I would never have had without it, and I would hate to have that taken away."

Gov. Carcieri doesn't care. His spokesman, Jeff Neal, told the Providence Journal Wednesday he opposes making the medical marijuana law permanent. "First," Neal said, "this Rhode Island statute is in direct conflict with the federal ban on marijuana. Second, the governor shares the concerns of the state police that a state medical marijuana law promotes the illicit drug trade while also making marijuana more available to children and others not using it for medical purposes."

But Rhode Island legislators have overridden the governor's veto once already on medical marijuana. Perhaps they will have to do it again.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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