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House Approves New Rules for Medical Marijuana Centers

The new legislation will allow medical marijuana centers to open within months, including one in Portsmouth.

The following is from a State House press release. 

The House approved legislation Wednesday developed to address concerns about Rhode Island’s medical marijuana compassion centers, moving the state one step closer to allowing patients to safely purchase the drug.

The legislation (2012-H 7888A), sponsored by Rep. Scott A. Slater (D-Dist. 10, Providence), is a compromise developed through talks between the sponsors, legislative leaders and Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee, who last year halted the issuing of licenses to the three facilities allowed under the 2009 state law establishing compassion centers.

The House also approved the Senate version of the bill (2012-S 2555A) sponsored by Sen. Rhoda E. Perry (D-Dist. 3, Providence), which will now be forwarded to the governor for his signature. The House bill will now be forwarded to the Senate.

The bill caps the amount of marijuana that a compassion center may grow and possess to address concerns that the magnitude of the marijuana and the resulting income it generates for privately run compassion centers might attract federal raids.

It also allows registered patients or caregivers who grow up to their allotted maximums, but do not use the entire amount for themselves or their patients, to sell the excess to a compassion center, as long as the limits of the grower and the purchasing center are not exceeded. That provision is designed to address concerns about the illegal sale and use of excess medical marijuana.

The bill was amended in committee to include several security measures, including a requirement for criminal background checks for those running or employed by compassion centers, with notification by the state police to the department of health if disqualifying offenses prohibit a person’s involvement with the compassion center.

Also added were provisions allowing the state police to visit the compassion centers to make recommendations about security of the premises and personnel, and adding the State Police to the committee that will oversee the compassion center law. The bill also makes state employees exempt from state penalties when implementing this law.

At least two of the three centers, including the , that were already approved by the Department of Health after a public bidding process to be licensed have indicated they will be able to operate under the new limits, so leaders expect the centers will be able to move swiftly to open.

“Since the Rhode Island medical marijuana law invited federal action, I have been working with advocates on a remedy. I applaud Senator Perry and Representative Slater for their work and I look forward to passage of a bill that will avoid federal intervention and bring needed medicinal relief to those who stand to benefit,” said Governor Chafee when the bill was introduced earlier this year.

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