PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND -- In a historic first, Rhode Island legislators today made their state the first ever to expand an existing medical marijuana law to allow for state-licensed compassion centers to grow and distribute marijuana to registered patients. Legislators easily overrode the veto issued by Gov. Donald Carcieri with override votes of 68-0 in the House and 35-3 in the Senate.
Rhode Island's medical marijuana law, like most such state laws, did not set up a formal distribution system, but simply allowed patients to grow a limited quantity of medical marijuana for their own use or designate a caregiver to grow it for them. In March, New Mexico became the first state to grant a state license to a medical marijuana producer, pursuant to legislation passed last year.
"We are seeing a historic shift to allowing state-licensed, regulated medical marijuana production and distribution," said Karen O'Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C. "Combining regulated distribution with provisions for patients to grow a limited quantity for themselves is the best way to assure safe access for patients, with solid safeguards to prevent abuse." States where medical marijuana bills that include a dispensary provision are under consideration include Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, and a similar ballot initiative is now being circulated in Arizona. This November, Maine voters will vote on a ballot initiative to add dispensaries to the state's medical marijuana law.
"During the Bush administration, the Drug Enforcement Administration raided medical marijuana patients and caregivers in California, leaving states hesitant to set up state-regulated distribution," said MPP director of government relations Aaron Houston. "Now that the Obama administration has announced a policy change, state legislators seem to feel safer adopting a sensible, regulated system of medical marijuana distribution that avoids the mistakes of California, where dispensaries sprang up with no rules. This is a historic step forward."
With more than 27,000 members and 100,000 e-mail subscribers nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. MPP believes that the best way to minimize the harm associated with marijuana is to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. For more information, please visit http://MarijuanaPolicy.org.