Medical Marijuana Distribution Bill Passes Both Rhode Island Houses

Landslide veto-proof vote will ensure increased access for RI patients

Providence, RI — The Rhode Island House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed H5359 today by a vote of 63-5, paving the way for three state-licensed, non-profit Compassion Centers that can “acquire, possess, cultivate, manufacture, deliver, transfer, transport, supply, or dispense marijuana…to registered qualifying patients and their registered primary caregivers.” The RI State Senate passed a companion bill, S0185, on April 29th by a vote of 35-2. Today’s State House vote indicates a solid victory for medical marijuana patients regardless of a possible veto by Governor Carcieri.

The issue of medical marijuana distribution has recently been in the headlines because of Obama Administration statements about ending federal enforcement against such facilities in California. At the same time, states like Rhode Island have recognized the need to address access to medical marijuana: a bill to authorize the use of medical marijuana and license similar compassion centers is currently being considered in New Jersey; a ballot initiative that would amend Maine’s medical marijuana law to approve dispensaries will come to a vote in November 2009; and in March, the New Mexico Department of Health issued its first license to a non-profit medical marijuana producer.

“It’s heartening to see states voting on and implementing much-needed distribution systems for patients that can’t grow medical marijuana themselves,” said Caren Woodson, Government Affairs Director with Americans for Safe Access, a national medical marijuana group advocating for increased access. “What’s needed now is for the federal government to work in harmony with these states in their efforts to ensure safe access to medical marijuana.”

The Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition (RIPAC), comprised of patients, advocacy groups, and healthcare providers, including the RI Medical Society and RI State Nurses Association, has been instrumental to ensuring the passage of the Medical Marijuana Act. The Rhode Island Compassion Center bill now heads to the Governor’s desk where it is expected to be vetoed and sent back to both houses for a veto-override vote, which advocates expect to win. “Rhode Island’s determination to ensure safe access to medical marijuana is exemplary and a model for other states to follow,” said RIPAC Executive Director Jesse Stout.

President Obama repeatedly stated at campaign appearances that he was “not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue.” That campaign promise was affirmed by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in more recent statements made to the media about a “new American policy.” However, several Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raids since the election have caused advocates to demand better adherence to those statements.

With over 30,000 active members in more than 40 states, Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is the largest national member-based organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research. ASA works to overcome political and legal barriers by creating policies that improve access to medical cannabis for patients and researchers through legislation, education, litigation, grassroots actions, advocacy and services for patients and the caregivers.



  1. Anonymous on

    You mean 13 states down, 37 to go! People here in MA don’t really know how to treat the new marijuana law that just went into place. Up to an ounce is now just a fine of a 100 dollars. No court date, no record. Certian towns and cities now are voting on “attachment” taxes to those fines now. Places like Springfield MA now have fines up to 500 dollars, instead of the voted apon 100 dollar fine. Just shows you, they listen to a certian extent then say FUCK YOU. When it is them that can fuck themselves.

  2. Anonymous on

    3 states down, 47 more to go.

  3. Cory on

    that is very good news!. i think every state should be doing this. As it says above that new jersey wants to do the same.. it will come true also new york is going to be at vote soon about this same deal and about 7 other places so fare.