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For R.I., Further Regulation of Medical Marijuana Opposed

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PROVIDENCE —— Medical-marijuana patients and the caregivers who provide the drug for them came out in large numbers to a hearing Wednesday at the State House in opposition to a bill that would further regulate the industry.

They said the proposal, introduced by state Rep. John M. Carnevale, would raise the prices for medical marijuana and potentially limit patients' access.

"I am concerned that patients will not be able to provide themselves with their medication at an affordable rate and in a manner that fits their needs," said Nick Testa, a caregiver from South Kingstown. "That's the main concern here. It's people losing the right to provide their own treatment."

The bill in question would require that, effective Jan. 1, 2013, the growing and selling of medical marijuana would be allowed only in state-sanctioned dispensaries, known as compassion centers. (The state Department of Health earlier this month selected three private organizations that will open Rhode Island's first three compassion centers.)

Carnevale, a Providence Democrat, said he proposed the legislation to address growing public safety concerns.

He says crimes and incidents requiring emergency response – from armed break-ins to house fires – have increased in neighborhoods where caregivers and patients are growing marijuana. He says, in some cases, caregivers and patients are being arrested and charged for illegally growing and selling marijuana for profit, a point that was reinforced by law-enforcement officials in attendance Wednesday night.

Law-enforcement officials argued that it is better to have marijuana grown and stored in centralized locations like compassion centers, where the drug could be better secured and regulated.

"We've seen that caregivers pose the biggest problem for us," state police Maj. David S. Neill said prior to the hearing before the House Committee on Health, Education, and Welfare. "When this was all put under the Department of Health, there was no one put in charge of auditing or reviewing what was happening with these caregivers and patients. It was just an open system."

Law-enforcement officials also supported other proposals in Carnevale's bill, including a requirement that state police conduct unannounced inspections of compassion centers, and a requirement of including a person's photo with medical-marijuana identification cards. "Overall, it strengthens and holds the whole system accountable," Neill said.

Many of those in opposition to Carnevale's bill argued that caregivers and compassion centers should co-exist.

Mike Pendleton, a caregiver from Warwick whose wife has been his patient for more than two years, feared that, without the smaller caregivers, medical-marijuana users might be left without their drug supply.

With more than 175 signed up to testify, according to medical-marijuana advocates, Wednesday's hearing was expected to go late into the night. No vote was expected on Carnevale's bill.

News Hawk- Jacob Husky 420 MAGAZINE
Source: projo.com
Author: Philip Marcelo
Contact: Contact Us
Copyright: The Providence Journal Co.
Website: For R.I., further regulation of medical marijuana opposed
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