Rhode Island Governor Reacts to Fed Letter on Medical Pot

WPRI: Just six weeks after the health department approved licenses for three medical marijuana compassion centers in Rhode Island, the controversial program is now on hold, suspended by Gov. Lincoln Chafee.

Marijuana dispensaries — the so-called “compassion centers” — were slated to open this summer in Warwick, Providence, and Portsmouth, but after a letter from U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha last week, there’s question of a possible conflict with federal law. The compassion centers, and anyone who houses or finances the centers, could be potential targets of federal law enforcement activities, Neronha said.

“The Justice Department is clarifying their position,” Gov. Chafee told Eyewitness News on Tuesday.

“It is a little bit of a surprise,” he said. “We’ve gone down this road so far!… We were just about ready to issue our certificates to the growers.”

The Rhode Island Department of Health recently gave the green light to three growers.

“[The feds] have said in the past they’re not going to prosecute ‘backyard’ cultivation of marijuana,” said Gov. Chafee.

Neronha considers the compassion centers large-scale operations.

Gov. Chafee says he’s checking with authorities in other states like Washington and Colorado that have dealt with similar situations in order to come up with a solution.

“There are very needy patients out there that are depending on medical marijuana,” said the governor.

If federal and state authorities cannot come to an agreement, the only options are either to not move forward with compassion centers — or try and change federal law.