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FOCUS: Medical Marijuana Compassion Centers In Rhode Island

medical marijuana compassion centers in rhode islandSTATE OF RHODE ISLAND — After three long years a Rhode Island bill allowing state-licensed medical marijuana compassion centers becomes signed into law.

Earlier in May, Governor Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, signed the bill that authorizes the establishment of 'medical marijuana centers' across the state. These state-licensed medical cannabis facilities, which are defined as 'compassion centers', will produce and distribute medical marijuana to authorized patients. Note that this is the second time that state legislators have passed legislation that enables state regulation for medical marijuana establishments.

According to the new SB2555 law, state health regulators will issue licenses for three non-profit compassion centers to grow and sell legal marijuana within Rhode Island. After months of tenuous medical marijuana application reviewing in 2011, The Department of Health named Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center in Portsmouth, Summit Medical Compassion Center in Warwick, and The Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center off Smithfield Avenue in Providence as the winning applicants, but more proposals actually qualified for a license.

Each Rhode island MMJ compassion center cannot grow more than 150 marijuana plants on its premises at a time. Also, of these 150 plants, no more than 99 can be mature at any one time. Each center cannot possess more than 1,500 ounces of usable medical marijuana at a time. It is also important to note that the proposal would also allow law enforcement to inspect dispensaries and give the state police a seat on the board overseeing the facilities.

While readers from other states that have more lenient medical marijuana laws might raise their eyebrows at the new law's restrictions, keep in mind that Rhode Island legislators have crafted the statutory limits so as to minimize the likelihood of federal intervention with the state law's implementation. Rhode Island's legislators have definitely been paying attention to the medical marijuana federal crackdown in California and Montana in recent years.

Previously, Rhode Island's lawmakers had more ambitious medical marijuana provisions in mind as shown in the 'compassion center' authorization law passed in 2009. Governor Chafee, however, suspended this law in 2011 because he was concerned that the 2009 law's provisions providing for large-scale medical marijuana commercial operations might make the state's compassion centers possible federal enforcement targets.

For his part, the US Attorney in charge of the jurisdiction covering Rhode Island, Peter Neronha, only indicated that he will see to it that federal drug laws are enforced. The federal law enforcement prosecuting authority did not specifically indicate if he will be scrutinizing or targeting Rhode Island's newly approved "compassion centers."

Rhode Island's law is similar to that off New Mexico, Maine, and Colorado. In these states, the state issues licenses for marijuana cultivation and distribution-all within state sanction. To date, these state's dispensaries have not had to deal with interference from federal drug enforcement authorities.

Medical marijuana has been legal in Rhode Island since 2006 when legislators legalized the limited cultivation and use of cannabis for medicinal purposes. The state has over 4,400 patients legally authorized to use marijuana to treat their symptoms.

Washington DC, Vermont, New Jersey, and Arizona have approved legal frameworks similar to Rhode Islands. However, these states are still in varying stages of implementing their medical marijuana laws.

THCbiz along with medical cannabis industry professionals are praising Rhode Island state leaders for persevering in the face of federal threats. Reports seem to indicate that three compassion centers in Rhode Island could possibly open in the next few months.

Rhode Island Medical Marijuana Program

For more information on Rhode Island Medical Marijuana Program visit:

Rhode Island New Patient Registration & Patient Information Change Forms:

Rhode Island New Practioner Form:

For questions or other inquiries regarding the RI MMJ Program visit: