Medical Marijuana in Rhode Island


The Marijuana Policy Project reports that the Rhode Island legislature has approved a bill that would protect patients who use cannabis as a medicine from arrest. Gov. Donald Carcieri (a Republican) has said he will veto the bill, which passed by a vote of 30 to 0 in the state Senate and 52 to 10 in the state House. MPP calls the vote "a strong retort to Congress," which recently rejected a measure that would have barred the Justice Department from harassing medical marijuana users.

If the legislature overrides Carcieri's veto, Rhode Island will become the 13th state to enact some sort of protection for medical use of marijuana and the fourth (in addition to Hawaii, Vermont, and Maryland) to do so through the legislature rather than by ballot initiative. Of the current dozen, Maryland does not give complete protection but instead caps the penalty for medical use (with a doctor's recommendation) at a $100 fine, while Arizona has a law that never had a practical impact because of inartful drafting (allowing doctors to "prescribe" marijuana, which is forbidden by federal law and would jeopardize their prescribing privileges, rather than "recommend" it, which is protected by the First Amendment). Some sources (including MPP) therefore leave those two off the list of medical marijuana states, counting only Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. Others count Maryland but not Arizona, or maybe even vice versa. That is why you may have seen different numbers in different accounts of the fallout from the Supreme Court's medical marijuana ruling.