State & Local Government

RSS Feed for this category

Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Are Coming to Rhode Island

It's official:

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- The House and Senate on Tuesday each overrode Governor Carcieri's veto of legislation allowing three "compassion centers" to dispense medical marijuana.

The Senate vote was 35 to 3. The House vote was unanimous, 67 to 0.
For the bill to become law, both houses were required to overide the veto of their own and the other house's bill. The measure is now in effect.

It's just inspiring to see an entire state legislature stand up in unison to protect patients. Carcieri's veto was driven by the same petty, false, and widely-refuted propaganda that's been deployed in desperation against medical marijuana legislation for more than a decade now:

In vetoing the bills, Carcieri said he thought "the increased availability, along with a complacent attitude, will no doubt result in increased usage, and will negatively impact the children of Rhode Island" and complicate the jobs of law enforcement officers.

Think about how remarkable it is that virtually the entire House and Senate of Rhode Island have come forth and firmly rejected this garbage. There was a time when reformers were all alone on this issue, yet today it is our opposition that stands isolated and estranged from public opinion.

The folks at the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition deserve a big round of applause for taking on this battle and winning by knockout.

Press Release: Rhode Island to License Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in Historic Move

JUNE 16, 2009

Rhode Island to License Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in Move Hailed as Historic
Legislature Overrides Veto; Rhode Island Is First State to Expand an Existing Medical Marijuana Law to Permit Dispensaries

CONTACT: Bruce Mirken, MPP director of communications ............... 415-585-6404 or 202-215-4205

PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND -- In a historic first, Rhode Island legislators today made their state the first ever to expand an existing medical marijuana law to allow for state-licensed compassion centers to grow and distribute marijuana to registered patients. Legislators easily overrode the veto issued by Gov. Donald Carcieri with override votes of 68-0 in the House and 35-3 in the Senate.

     Rhode Island's medical marijuana law, like most such state laws, did not set up a formal distribution system, but simply allowed patients to grow a limited quantity of medical marijuana for their own use or designate a caregiver to grow it for them. In March, New Mexico became the first state to grant a state license to a medical marijuana producer, pursuant to legislation passed last year.

     "We are seeing a historic shift to allowing state-licensed, regulated medical marijuana production and distribution," said Karen O'Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C. "Combining regulated distribution with provisions for patients to grow a limited quantity for themselves is the best way to assure safe access for patients, with solid safeguards to prevent abuse." States where medical marijuana bills that include a dispensary provision are under consideration include Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, and a similar ballot initiative is now being circulated in Arizona. This November, Maine voters will vote on a ballot initiative to add dispensaries to the state's medical marijuana law.

     "During the Bush administration, the Drug Enforcement Administration raided medical marijuana patients and caregivers in California, leaving states hesitant to set up state-regulated distribution," said MPP director of government relations Aaron Houston. "Now that the Obama administration has announced a policy change, state legislators seem to feel safer adopting a sensible, regulated system of medical marijuana distribution that avoids the mistakes of California, where dispensaries sprang up with no rules. This is a historic step forward."

     With more than 27,000 members and 100,000 e-mail subscribers nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. MPP believes that the best way to minimize the harm associated with marijuana is to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. For more information, please visit


United States

Rhode Island passes new medical marijuana law

Dear Friends:

Great news! Rhode Island just passed a new medical marijuana law.

In landslide votes of 68-0 and 35-3, the Rhode Island General Assembly today overrode Gov. Donald Carcieri's (R) veto of legislation to allow the licensed, regulated sale of marijuana to seriously ill patients. Rhode Island will now become only the second state (after New Mexico) to license and regulate medical marijuana dispensing.

This expands the law that MPP passed in 2006, which protects medical marijuana patients from arrest and jail. Under that law, patients were allowed to grow their own marijuana or designate a caregiver to do it for them, but many patients didn't have regular access, and some were even assaulted trying to buy marijuana in the streets. Thanks to the new law, patients will now be able to obtain medical marijuana safely and legally from three state-regulated and licensed compassion centers.

MPP gives a special thanks to the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition, an MPP grant recipient, for incredible organizing work.

If you support this work, would you please consider automatically donating $5 or more on your credit card each month to help us pass similar bills into law?

We're also making great progress in Delaware, Illinois, New Hampshire, and New York:

  • On June 3, the Delaware Senate Health Committee voted 4-0 to pass the first modern medical marijuana bill ever introduced in Delaware. The bill is based on MPP's model legislation, and MPP's Noah Mamber testified in support of the bill. This is the first year MPP has funded medical marijuana work in Delaware, and we're making rapid progress.
  • On May 27, the Illinois Senate passed a medical marijuana bill by 30-28. MPP has been lobbying and organizing in the state since 2004, and this year, we ramped up the pressure — running TV ads featuring two patients and generating more than 4,000 e-mails and 3,600 calls to legislators. After the Senate victory, a House committee swiftly approved the bill, but the legislature recessed only three days later. We have until the end of 2010 to pass the bill this session.
  • In New Hampshire, MPP has retained a top lobbying firm and grassroots organizer to pass a medical marijuana bill, and it looks like the legislature will send Gov. John Lynch (D) the legislation to sign later this month. Back in March, the House passed the bill, 234-138, and on April 29, the Senate passed an amended version, 14-10. This is the first time either chamber has approved medical marijuana legislation, and we need your help for a final push, complete with radio ads, to urge Gov. Lynch (D) to let the bill become law.
  • Our chances of passing medical marijuana legislation in New York this year got more complicated last week, when the state Senate tumbled into a major leadership battle. The Assembly has passed similar legislation twice (in 2007 and 2008), but it still needs to be voted on by the Senate, where it has already passed one committee. We've built an impressive coalition: Virtually the entire state medical community, including the state medical society, nurses' association, and hospice association, support medical marijuana access. And 76% of New Yorkers support the bill, including 55% of Conservative Party members (the state party to the right of Republicans).

This is amazing progress for just a few months. Our state lobbying efforts are costing quite a bit of money, but it's all paying off. Would you please donate today so we can continue pushing hard in these states?

Make a one-time donation to our work

Become a monthly pledger to provide us with ongoing funding for our work

Together, we're on the path to victory, but we need your help to keep going.

Thank you,

Rob Kampia
Executive Director
Marijuana Policy Project
Washington, D.C.

P.S. As I've mentioned in previous alerts, a major philanthropist has committed to match the first $2.35 million that MPP can raise from the rest of the planet in 2009. This means that your donation today will be doubled.

United States

DC Residents: Before Your Summer Starts

You Can Make a Difference



Dear DC Friends,

Urge the City Council to pass a resolution now to assert our rights to make our own laws without congressional interference -- including protecting medical marijuana!

Take Action Button (new)
Email the Council.

Should the federal government have the right to say what laws we can pass here in DC?

You and I have been working together to help our city gain control over its own drug policy, and we're making progress!

Still, the District of Columbia can't fully make its own rules when it comes to things like medical marijuana or khat, a plant used as a mild stimulant, similar to coffee, among some of our African communities here.

This doesn't seem like democracy to me. But you can fight for DC sovereignty by urging the City Council to pass a new resolution asserting the District’s right to make its own laws without congressional interference.

If the council passes the resolution now, we can have a stronger impact on the part of the federal budget that concerns our city and our rights, and the budget will be finalized soon.

You can join me in working with partners like the Marijuana Policy Project. Take action today and urge your Council to pass this resolution before the summer recess. You deserve a free and just city, and together, we can build it!

Thanks for all you do.


Naomi Long
Director, DC Metro Project
Drug Policy Alliance Network



Washington, DC
United States

Tough Times: California Protests Over HIV/AIDS Budget Cuts -- Needle Exchange Funding at Risk, Prop. 36 Funding to Vanish

California's $24 billion budget deficit and the steep cuts proposed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) to reduce it provoked demonstrations by HIV/AIDS activists and harm reductionists last Friday in Los Angeles, Monday in Fresno, and Wednesday in Sacramento calling for the restoration of funding. Late last month, Schwarzenegger announced plans to slice $80.1 million in funding for critical HIV/AIDS services, including totally eliminating general fund support for all State Office of AIDS programs except the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, which will lose $12.3 million in general fund support.

The cuts would zero out state funding for harm reduction services through the AIDS office, as well as most of the HIV/AIDS prevention funds that California cities use to provide grants for needle exchange programs. For most of the 40 needle exchanges in the state, those grants provided between 60% and 90% of their total funding.

HIV/AIDS and harm reduction groups have organized a coalition known as Stop the HIV Cuts in a bid to reverse the proposed cuts. In addition to the demonstration in Sacramento, protests were also held Wednesday in San Diego and Palm Springs.

Funding for Proposition 36, the voter-approved 2001 law that requires that low-level drug offenders be sent to treatment instead of jail or prison, is also on the line. Gov. Schwarzenegger wants the legislature to eliminate the $108 million line-item for the program, which enrolls some 36,000 drug offenders in the state.

But that would leave California in a strange bind. Prop. 36 is not a program, but a state law, approved by the voters, who mandated that the legislature fund the program through 2006. It prevents judges from sending Prop. 36-eligible offenders to prison, instead of requiring that they receive treatment. If the state does not provide funding, the burden will shift to counties and municipalities, which will not be able to make up the difference. That means that Prop. 36-eligible offenders may, in the near future, receive neither jail sentences nor treatment.

Medical Marijuana: Rhode Island Dispensary Bill Passes with Veto-Proof Margins

Rhode Island will become the third state in the nation to enact a dispensary system to distribute medical marijuana to seriously ill patients after the state Senate joined the House in passing S185, the Edwin O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act by veto-proof margins. As of Thursday afternoon, the bill was on the governor's desk.
Rhode Island Senate chamber
Gov. Donald Carcieri (R) has been a consistent foe of medical marijuana, vetoing bills in previous years. But with the Senate voting 30-2 to adopt the measure and the House voting 64-4 in favor last week, a Carcieri veto should be easily overridden.

The measure would permit three dispensaries to operate to sell marijuana to medical marijuana patients. Nearly 700 patients have registered with the state Department of Health since legislators approved a medical marijuana law there in 2006.

Under that law, Rhode Islanders suffering from chronic pain, seizures, multiple scleroris, severe nausea, or Alzheimer's are allowed to possess up to 12 plants and 2.5 ounces of marijuana. But the law carries no provision for patients unable or unwilling to grow their own medicine to obtain it elsewhere.

While 13 states have medical marijuana laws on the books, only two of them, California and New Mexico, allow for dispensaries.

"The Rhode Island Statehouse is on the cutting edge of helping people with severe health care problems," said Sen. Rhoda Perry (D-Providence), sponsor of the Senate bill. "Now patients will not be subjecting themselves to any harassment because we will have a well-regulated mechanism that will grow and distribute the marijuana."

The push for the dispensary legislation in Rhode Island was led by the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition and the Marijuana Policy Project.

Rhode Island Senate Votes to Open Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

Legal access to medical marijuana could soon be coming to the east coast:

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island would be the third state in the nation and the first on the East Coast to allow nonprofit stores to sell marijuana to medical patients under legislation approved Tuesday by state lawmakers.

The state Senate voted 30-2 to adopt a measure permitting three stores to sell marijuana to more than 680 patients registered with the state Department of Health. It now heads to Gov. Don Carcieri, who has previously vetoed bills legalizing marijuana for medical use.

A veto from the governor is almost certain, but towering majorities in the House and Senate should make it possible to override the veto. That's exactly how Rhode Island's original medical marijuana law was passed. Maybe Carcieri should just sign the damn thing and save himself the double embarrassment of not only trying to stand between seriously-ill patients and their medicine, but also failing at it.

ASA Sponsored Resolution Calls for Federal Change

Dear ASA Supporter,

California Senator Mark Leno (D-SF) introduced Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 14 yesterday. This ASA-sponsored resolution calls on the President and US Congress to end medical cannabis raids in California and to "create a comprehensive federal medical marijuana policy that ensures safe and legal access to any patient that would benefit from it." If adopted, SJR 14 will be the first time a state legislature has officially called for a change in federal medical cannabis policies.

Please help ASA get SJR 14 adopted by making a special contribution of $100 today.

The President and US Attorney General Eric Holder have talked about a new federal policy concerning medical cannabis, but there is still a lot of work to do in defining what that policy will be. SJR 14 supports ASA's National Policy Agenda and is part of our strategic campaign to shape a more reasonable and compassionate federal policy - one that ensures safe and legal access for all patients nationwide.

The resolution calls on the President and the US Congress to (1) end federal raids, intimidation, and interference with state medical cannabis laws; (2) adopt policies and laws to encourage advanced clinical research trials into the therapeutic use of cannabis; (3) provide for an affirmative defense to medical cannabis charges in federal court; and (4) to create comprehensive federal medical cannabis policy that ensures safe and legal access for patients.

SJR 14 is an opportunity for the California legislature to influence the development of the new federal policy, defend the state's right to choose and regulate medical cannabis, and to defend the compassionate will of the voters. But, we only have a short time to get this resolution through committees and floor votes in the State Senate and Assembly.

Please support ASA by donating today so that we can get SJR 14 adopted right away!

Thank you for your help,

Rebecca Saltzman
Chief of Staff
Americans for Safe Access

P.S. For more information on SJR 14, visit
United States

Medical Marijuana: Rhode Island Dispensary Bill Passes House, Now Goes for Final Senate Approval

Rhode Island is poised to become the first state to expand an existing medical marijuana law to allow for the operation of dispensaries after the House Wednesday gave final approval a bill that would do just that. The bill passed by a whopping -- and veto-proof -- majority of 64-4.
Rhode Island State House
The bill, SB 185, now goes back to the Senate for final approval. The Senate earlier approved its version of the bill by a margin of 35-2 and is expected to easily pass the final version next Tuesday.

Gov. Donald Carcieri, no friend to medical marijuana, is likely to veto the bill. But given the overwhelming vote in favor of the bill, an override vote seems destined to succeed.

The bill would allow up to three dispensaries to grow and sell marijuana to patients in the state's medical marijuana program. The 2006 bill legalizing medical marijuana in the state -- after the legislature overrode a Carcieri veto -- did not have any provision for providing marijuana for patients.

The push for the bill was led by the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition and the Marijuana Policy Project.

Drug Testing: Random Suspicionless Drug Tests Suffer Double Smackdown in Louisiana

Two separate efforts to impose random suspicionless drug testing on different groups in Louisiana have failed -- one thanks to a court challenge, the other thanks to politics. The outcomes should mark an end to the hubbub over drug testing in the Bayou State in recent months, but, knowing Louisiana's political class, that may not be the case.
drug testing lab
In the first defeat, the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board entered into a consent decree with the local Federation of Teachers and the American Civil Liberty Union (ACLU) agreeing not to subject teachers to drug testing without particularized suspicion. The teachers and the ACLU had earlier filed a lawsuit against the school board over its policy of requiring any teacher who suffered an injury on the job to take a drug test, regardless of any suspicion he or she was intoxicated.

The case revolved around one-time East Baton Rouge teacher of the year Peggy Reno, who was punched by a student in September 2008. Although there was no suggestion or suspicion that she was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the school board required her to take an invasive drug test.

"The Constitution rightly requires that such invasive searches be based on reasonable suspicion," said Adam Wolf, an attorney with the ACLU. "Public servants, like all of us, cannot be made to prove their innocence when there is no evidence that they have done anything wrong."

"In this case, both common sense and the Constitution called for a change in course," said Katie Schwartzmann, an attorney with the ACLU of Louisiana. "It is a waste of time and money, not to mention a gross violation of educators' rights, to drug test without suspicion."

As if that weren't enough of a slap-down, a bill before the legislature that would have required the drug testing of welfare recipients was killed Monday on an 11-5 House Appropriations Committee vote. The bill's sponsor, Rep. John LaBruzzo (R-Metairie), had argued that his proposal could save the state money from long-term health problems caused by drug abuse and would help families get addiction treatment.

Under the bill, people who received cash benefits from the Family Independence Temporary Assistance Program would have been required to undergo drug testing in order to stay on the program. If they tested positive, they would have to undergo drug treatment or lose their benefits.

"We're testing to make sure those children are in a safe environment to where their parents aren't abusing drugs," LaBruzzo said in remarks reported by the Associated Press.

But other legislators attacked the bill on both fiscal and constitutional grounds. "You're targeting a specific group of individuals," said Rep. Patricia Smith (D-Baton Rouge).

Rep. Jim Fannin (D-Jonesboro), the committee chair, questioned the cost of the bill, estimated at $625,000 the first year and $2.6 million over five years. The cash-strapped state couldn't afford costly new programs, he said, casting his vote against the bill.

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Safe Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School