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Proposed Bristol Ordinance Puts Medical Marijuana Patient Privacy At Risk

Posted: December 02, 2015|Category: Medical Marijuana Category: Privacy

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The ACLU of Rhode Island is urging the Bristol Town Council to reject an ordinance that will impose unnecessary burdens on medical marijuana patients and caregivers and severely impact their privacy.

In a letter to the Town Council ahead of its Wednesday hearing, ACLU of RI executive director Steven Brown urged council members to reject a proposed ordinance that would require patients and caregivers growing more than 12 marijuana plants to obtain approval from a Zoning Board official. Individuals participating in cooperative cultivations would need to obtain approval from the Zoning Board. These approvals are not required by the state’s medical marijuana law. Rather, such requirements would undermine the law’s goal of protecting the confidentiality of patients and caregivers by making growing sites, such as a patient’s home, public and by requiring a representative to appear before the Zoning Board.

“By making the location of the site public, particularly for residential growers, the identity of the patients and/or caregivers will often be extremely easy to determine,” stated Brown. “Further, the harm to patients could be even larger than the loss of their privacy. The publicizing of the locations where medical marijuana is being grown may make patients the targets of burglars and others engaged in criminal activities.”

The proposal attempts to resolve these issues by allowing a representative to appear on the cardholder’s behalf and by specifying that applications will not be public record. However, this offers little protection, in part, because, as Brown notes, “cities and towns cannot decide on their own that a document is not a public record.”

A copy of the ACLU of RI’s letter is available here.

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