Another governor caves to federal pressure. Indeed, unwelcome news out of Rhode Island as Governor Lincoln Chafee chose to stop the creating of a system of medical marijuana dispensaries in his state. Rhode island has had a medical marijuana program in place since 2007, which allows registered patients to get marijuana from designated caregivers. However, as if often the case in such circumstances, this is hardly an ideal situation for many who may not know or be near a suitable caregiver. By an large, people like cancer patients have bigger worries on their mind to be forced to spend too long looking for their legally recommended medicine.
The governor’s statement begins as follows:
“This has been a difficult decision. I believe that patients with debilitating medical conditions such as cancer, glaucoma and AIDS should have safe, reliable and well-regulated access to marijuana for therapeutic purposes. Rhode Island has a card and caregiver law currently in place for distributing medical marijuana to patients in need. I have met with and heard from advocate groups and patients that this existing system has serious flaws. In 2009, in an effort to address these flaws, the General Assembly passed a new law authorizing the cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana through three state-registered and regulated compassion centers. The Governorâ€™s constitutional duty is to implement laws passed by the General Assembly and I take that obligation very seriously.”
After almost two years of delays, the Rhode Island Department of Health approved the creation of three compassion centers that would be able to sell medical marijuana to patients. One of those three, the Summit Medical Compassion center was actually a project of former NBA star Cuttino Mobley. While Mobley has since expanded his plans into Maine, thousands of patients have been waiting for the Rhode Island dispensaries to finally open. Sadly, according to Governor Chafee, that will not be happening:
“Unfortunately, Rhode Islandâ€™s compassion center law is illegal under paramount federal law. And, while the United States Attorney in each district is given some discretion in the local enforcement of federal laws, I have received communications from both the United States Department of Justice and from the United States Attorney for the District of Rhode Island that large scale commercial operations such as Rhode Islandâ€™s compassion centers will be potential targets of â€œvigorousâ€ criminal and civil enforcement efforts by the federal government. I cannot implement a state marijuana cultivation and distribution system which is illegal under federal law and which will become a target of federal law enforcement efforts. Federal injunctions, seizures, forfeitures, arrests and prosecutions will only hurt the patients and caregivers that our law was designed to protect.”
Most patients would probably agree that leaving them without access to the compassion centers will hurt them more. Trying to appease the federal authorities helps nobody in the long run. The governor finishes his declaration with some weak prodding for legislative action:
“I remain committed to improving the existing medical marijuana cultivation and distribution system in Rhode Island. I am hopeful that the General Assembly will introduce new legislation in the upcoming session that will address the flaws in, and indeed make improvement to, the existing medical marijuana card and caregiver system while not triggering federal enforcement actions. I pledge to work with advocates, patients and members of the General Assembly towards that end.”
Of course, while making improvement to Rhode island’s medical marijuana law is a good initiative the “not triggering federal enforcement actions” condition is impossible to realistically fulfill. The governor is essentially telling the legislature to use the federal threats as cover for inaction. The only way to push medical marijuana forward is to stand up for it and dare the feds to do their worst. Maybe some state leaders will have the guts to do it someday, but for now it seems like more meekness in on the menu.
By: Marijuana News