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Seven Years of Executive Agency Resistance to Rhode Island Medical Marijuana Laws

Posted: October 09, 2012|Category: Medical Marijuana

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2005: The R.I. Department of Health (DOH) testifies before legislative committees against passage of a medical marijuana bill. The General Assembly nonetheless approves the bill. The legislation, which contains a two-year sunset provision, is vetoed by Governor Donald Carcieri, but the General Assembly overrides the veto.

2007: The General Assembly votes to make the medical marijuana law permanent. The bill is vetoed by Governor Carcieri, and the veto is overridden by the General Assembly.

2009: The General Assembly votes to approve a law establishing up to three state-regulated medical marijuana dispensaries known as compassion centers. The bill is vetoed by Governor Carcieri, and the veto is overridden by the General Assembly.

2009: The new compassion center law requires the DOH to adopt implementing regulations, and to begin accepting applications, within 90 days, and to grant a registration certification for the first center within 190 days, which would be in December 2009. However, the implementing regulations themselves are not formally filed until February 2010.

2010: Despite a provision in the medical marijuana law that information regarding qualifying patients and “their primary caregivers and practitioners” is confidential, in March the Department of Health publicly releases the names of physicians who have signed medical marijuana certification forms. The Rhode Island Medical Society strenuously objects to the disclosure, warning that it will deter some physicians from certifying patients for the program. A few months later, the General Assembly steps in and approves a bill further clarifying the law in order to prevent any future release of the information.

2010: In May, DOH receives 15 applications from non-profit organizations to run a compassion center. In September, DOH rejects all of the applications that have been filed, claiming that none of them meet the necessary regulatory standards. Among the grounds given for rejecting the applications is that some of them exceeded a 25 page limit. In October, the DOH starts the process all over again.

2011: In March, DOH announces that three applications to open a compassion center have been approved. In April, the U.S. Attorney for Rhode Island sends a letter to Governor Lincoln Chafee threatening to prosecute the compassion centers under federal law. Governor Chafee holds off issuing the licenses to the three dispensaries. In October, the Governor indicates he will not be issuing the licenses until the state law is revised to address concerns about the operation of the compassion centers.

2012: In May, the General Assembly approves revisions to the compassion center law as requested by the Governor. However, issuance of licenses to the centers remains on hold while the DOH proposes revised regulations under the amended law.

2012: In August, the Department of Health summarily reverses a six-year-old policy, and bars registered nurse practitioners and physician assistants from signing medical marijuana certification forms.

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