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Medical Marijuana: Rhode Island Governor Vetoes Bill, Override Expected

As expected, Gov. Donald Carcieri Monday vetoed a bill that would make Rhode Island's medical marijuana law permanent. Now, supporters of the bill are urging the legislature to act swiftly to override that veto, and legislative leaders have signaled they will do just that. The measure passed both chambers with margins sufficient for an override if no members change their minds.

"As I said in my veto message in 2005," Carcieri reminded the legislative leaders in his latest veto mesage, "I support efforts to provide effective pain management to persons suffering from debilitating conditions, but not in a way that violates federal law and ignores the drug approval process as established by the Food and Drug Administration." Allowing medical marijuana would lead to an increase in criminal activity and drug use, he worried, and patients could still be arrested by the feds.

The "bottom line," Carcieri said, is that "this legislation would give vulnerable Rhode Island citizens a false sense of security regarding the legality and safety of producing, distributing and using marijuana, a substance which is neither legal under federal law nor regulated in any way by any government agency."

Legislative leaders are ready to attempt an override. House Majority Leader Gordon Fox issued a statement Monday saying, "I fully expect that we will place a vote to override the Governor's medical marijuana veto on the floor calendar before the end of our session. The vote on Rep. (Thomas) Slater's bill made it clear that there is an overwhelming majority in the House willing to remove the sunset clause on this compassionate legislation."

Senate leader Joseph Montalbano issued a statement saying: "The Senate will consider a veto override of Senator Perry's compassionate medical marijuana legislation prior to final adjournment of the 2007 session. The state has not experienced any problems during the law's trial period, and medical marijuana is in some cases the only treatment option that effectively alleviates chronic pain and nausea in terminally ill patients, which is why the measure is supported by health organizations such as the Rhode Island Medical Society, the American Nurses Association and the American Public Health Association."

That's exactly what patients and activists want. Michael Oliver of Barrington, who uses medical marijuana to relieve the devastating symptoms of Crohn's disease, said, "I don't understand why the governor wants to put me in jail for using the medicine that has given me back a normal life. I can only hope the legislature will override this cruel, pointless veto."

"We are disappointed and hope that the legislature will move quickly to override this veto," said Al Wroblewski, interim executive director of AIDS Project Rhode Island. "There is clear scientific data showing that medical marijuana can help people with AIDS, and the clients we serve shouldn't be forced to become criminals to get effective treatment. The medical marijuana law has worked well, and there is no reason to go back to the dark days of threatening sick people with jail."

"The governor is out of step not only with Rhode Island voters, but with the state's medical community, including the medical society and nurses' association, which support this legislation," said Ray Warren, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, which has been working closely with local activists in support of the bill. "We are confident that legislators will continue to listen to science rather than superstition and override this ill-considered veto."

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Rhode Island's marijuana bill.

The governor is afraid that it's citizens will be arrested by the fed's. This is the only way to effect change in our society when some are for it and the feds are against it. The states have to exercise their legal rights in order to effect change on the federal level. Legalize all marijuana, tax it and sell it. Then sit back and watch the $$ roll in. mmj in RI

You can find a news column by patient Michael Oliver, "Don't Make Me a Criminal," at Also check out "Medical marijuana: his name is on the bill" for more info on lead House sponsor, Rep. Tom Slater (also has link from

Chronic Pain

The medical community has undertreated chronic intractable pain for too long. At least this offers an option to narcophobic MD's.

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