Legislators Override Veto, Then Begin New Session

Legislators Override Veto, Then Begin New Session
Posted by CN Staff on January 03, 2006 at 22:42:56 PT
By Scott Mayerowitz
Source: Providence Journal
Providence, R.I. -- Rhode Island became the 11th state yesterday to allow the use of marijuana to ease the pain of people suffering from serious and chronic illnesses such as AIDS and cancer.Patients whose doctors or caregivers recommend marijuana will soon be able to possess up to 12 plants, or 2.5 ounces of marijuana. The new law protects them from arrest under state law, but does nothing to stop federal prosecution, leaving some critics to call the measure nothing more than a symbolic act.
The marijuana issue provided a dramatic start to the lawmakers' first day back in the State House in six months.This year's legislative session began with an almost festive atmosphere. There were backslaps and smiles and tables full of food, despite simmering election-year tensions, especially those between House Speaker William J. Murphy's leadership team and an alliance of Republicans and dissident Democrats.Murphy, D-West Warwick, vowed in the coming months to tackle -- among other things -- "responsible tax reform, a comprehensive energy strategy, a fair and livable working wage.""The issues that we will face in this session are the issues that every Rhode Islander faces in their day-to-day lives," Murphy said.But the focus yesterday was on marijuana.Lawmakers had passed "medical marijuana" legislation in June, but the measure was vetoed by Governor Carcieri. The Senate overrode the veto the next day, but the House waited until yesterday to override, easily doing so with a 59-to-13 vote. Three members were absent and only 44 votes were needed for the override.(Lawmakers have been officially on "recess" for the last six months, allowing for the override before officially adjourning yesterday and then opening a new session.)"It's been a long wait and a lot of work, but this law will grant mercy and relief to the sick and suffering. Finally Rhode Island will stop denying sick people a proven means of relief from their pain," said the House sponsor, Rep. Thomas C. Slater, D-Providence, who has cancer.Sen. Rhoda E. Perry, D-Providence, the Senate sponsor, called it a "progressive and compassionate piece of legislation." The bill carries the name of Edward O. Hawkins, Perry's nephew who died of AIDS.Persuading his colleagues for an override, Slater said "Ten states have realized that it makes no sense in making people criminals for following their doctor's advice and relieving their pain." In those states, "The sky has not fallen and thousands of patients live in less pain."House Minority Leader Robert A. Watson, R-East Greenwich, who supported and voted for the bill in the past, said that in his heart he wanted to pass the law but in the end he needed to stand behind the governor. Only 6 of the 14 other House Republicans joined Watson, voting to uphold the veto.Carcieri's press secretary, Jeff Neal, said the governor continues to oppose the measure, saying it will "encourage criminal activity because it does not provide any means for the legal purchase of medical marijuana."The Republican governor's office also said that "the definition of which medical conditions qualify one for use of marijuana is so broad that it would allow nearly any Rhode Islander to be a user."Carcieri has said the bill "is full of loopholes" including a lack of standards for dosage and quality of the drugs, no legal source of the drug or marijuana seeds and allows patients and their caregivers to possess "staggering" amounts of marijuana.The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy also weighed in yesterday, saying that using marijuana is still against federal laws and the Food and Drug Administration does not consider the drug a safe and effective medicine for pain relief."It's largely symbolic. I don't think that it will have practical effect," Tom Riley, a spokesman in the office, said of Rhode Island's law.Riley also said that the vast majority of people who serve time for marijuana possession are trafficking the drug.Additionally, in June the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that state laws permitting the medicinal use of marijuana do not supersede federal laws.Ten states already have similar laws: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.There are other states that have medical marijuana laws, but the Marijuana Policy Project, which has been pushing for the law here, says these 10 states are the only ones where the law makes a practical difference. The Marijuana Policy Project works to "minimize" laws that are intended to prohibit marijuana use.Rhode Island, Hawaii and Vermont are the only three states where medical marijuana came through legislative action. The other states approved it through ballot initiatives.The group's executive director, Rob Kampia, hailed yesterday's vote -- the first after the Supreme Court ruling -- as a major victory."We will continue to roll back the government's war on the sick and dying and the White House drug czar can't stop us any more than he can make water flow uphill," Kampia said in a statement.The Department of Health now has 90 days to create rules and regulations regarding the use of marijuana for medical purposes.Once those rules are in place, people looking to use marijuana must first get a signed statement by a doctor stating that in their opinion "the potential benefits of the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the health risks for the qualifying patient."The department then has 30 days to approve or deny the application and another 5 days to then issue identification cards to those approved.Anybody with such a card is immune from state criminal and civil prosecution or any disciplinary action by employers as long as they do not possess more than the allowed quantities.The law does nothing to protect people from arrest or prosecution under federal drug laws.The plants must be stored in "an indoor facility." Authorized caregivers cannot have a felony conviction in their past. The Department of Health is required to report back to the legislature by Jan. 1, 2007, on the number of people who availed themselves of the program, and any problems arising from it. Unless lawmakers vote to keep the program going, it will expire on June 30, 2007.The legislation does not provide a way for people to get the drug, leaving that to illegal channels.After passing the marijuana legislation, lawmakers shifted to the session ahead.During an opening speech, Murphy more than once urged his colleagues "to put aside petty politics and whatever personal agenda[s] we might have in this election year and get down to doing the work that we have been sent here to do.""Let's do what's right, not what's politically expedient," Murphy said. "And, please, this is an election year. Let's work for six months together as a House of Representatives and worry about politics in June."Watson quipped in response: "I would hope that we don't rid the room of all petty politics, because we do need to have some fun."More seriously, Watson said: "A majority is judged best by how they treat the minority."Over in the Senate, lawmakers took the highly unusual step of recommitting two bills that passed by both chambers last year but were never transmitted to the governor's desk.Senate spokesman Greg Pare said the bills were never given to Carcieri because the Senate leadership tried, but failed, to work out a compromise and avoid vetoes on the bills.So yesterday, the Senate essentially killed off the bills by sending them back to committee.The first was a lobbying bill that would have exempted from disclosures certain sales and purchases -- namely, transactions carried out "in the ordinary course of business and for fair market value" -- made by people and companies seeking to influence the General Assembly.The other would have allowed Beacon Mutual Insurance, the state's dominant worker's compensation insurer, to expand beyond Rhode Island's borders and go from a public nonprofit to a private for-profit company.Note: House Speaker William J. Murphy welcomes the legislators back into session by urging them to work together and put petty politics aside.Source: Providence Journal, The (RI)Author: Scott Mayerowitz, Katherine Gregg and Elizabeth Gudrais, Journal State House BureauPublished: Wednesday, January 4, 2006Copyright: 2006 The Providence Journal CompanyContact: letters projo.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:Marijuana Policy Project Override Turns Marijuana Bill Into Law Legislators Override Carcieriís Marijuana Veto Overrides Carcieri's Marijuana Veto
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Comment #2 posted by Max Flowers on January 04, 2006 at 09:22:44 PT
12 plant limit
I agree Sam, so I think I should drop this hint to RI people who are reading this and starting to think about what they will do:With a 12-plant limit, what you folks who are going to grow want to do is use either clones (cuttings from a female mother plant) or feminized seeds. That way you won't have a bunch of male plants screw up your supply, which is what will happen if you try to use regular non-feminized seeds ("bud" comes only from female plants). That's right, there are actually seeds that they know will grow up to be female plants! I'll explain that one later.Anyway the new law seems to say only how many plants you can have, and not how much space or how many grow lights you can use, etc (if accurate this is a GOOD thing!). So what you want to do is make sure those 12 plants are female, and grow them as big as you can. Worry later about if you have "too much" after your 12 big plants get to harvest.
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Comment #1 posted by Sam Adams on January 04, 2006 at 06:52:14 PT
How can they discuss plants and then say there's no where to get the "drug"? Who edits this stuff? It is a scary world. Just 2 generations ago, virtually everyone had their own vegetable garden out back. Now, we apparently don't even know where flowers come from. Turn off the TV and get outside people! There are all sorts of wonderful things going on out there!
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