Johnston Passed Ordinance to Restrict Grows

Monday night, July 10, the Johnston Town Council passed an ordinance to regulate home grows.  It went into effect Monday night. The ordinance could have a devastating effect on patients and their caregivers.  We are currently suing the town of Smithfield and are discussing the Johnston ordinance with the ACLU.  Keep in mind that an ordinance is NOT a criminal law.  As long as you are within the limits of the RI MMj Act, then you are not subject to arrest.  Towns have the power to issue zoning citations which could result in fines if not appealed. The towns and the police do not know where the grows are unless you or someone else has told them or they have noticed an odor, etc.  The Health Dept. and DBR do not and cannot provide the towns or police information indicating where the legal individual MMj grows are.  If you are a patient or caregiver in Johnston who will be adversely affected by this ordinance and think you may be interested in possible legal action against the Town of Johnston, contact joanne@RIpatients.org or call the ACLU at 401. 831.7171 for a confidential discussion.

The Council amended the proposed ordinance to make it clear that patients and caregivers will have to apply for special permits in addition to zoning certificates and building, electrical permits or plumbing permits (if such renovations are made). Here is a summary of the new ordinance.

New Requirements for Patients and Caregiver Grows  Both patients and caregivers could still grow but only in their own residences, which are defined as “mmj facilities”.  They can only grow if they submit to fire department inspections, building department inspections (where appropriate) and obtain a zoning certificate and a special permit from the town. Renters must provide notarized statements from their landlords granting permission to grow. Grows, now called “facilities” will not be allowed unless they meet following requirements:

security alarm system (no specifics)

Two means of egress

No basement grows

Grow Area cannot be within ten (10) feet of a heating or other ignition source such as an electric, propane, natural gas or oil fired furnace or as required per manufacturer specifications

“Proper” ventilation to mitigate the risk of mold

Carbon filters required to reduce odors.

Smoke alarms/detectors installed in accordance with State Fire Code and/or to the satisfaction of the Fire Department

Comment: Many home grows will likely be prohibited due to “no basement” rule.  We don’t think such restrictions apply to other fire risks, like dryers.   The Fire Department can require more than the state code requires. Growers could be required to put in hard wired expensive smoke alarm systems.  “Proper” ventilation is in the eye of the beholder.  There are no specifics about security systems so we don’t know what they may require. Restricting patients and caregivers to grow in their residences and not in leased spaces could shut down some grows and force patients to grow in homes that are inappropriate.  One reason patients and caregivers rent spaces to grow is because of children in the home. Other reasons are safety and lack of space.  We are concerned that patient and caregivers will feel pressured to move grows out of basements and leased spaces and into crowded homes with less than ideal conditions. Patients who lease space because their landlords are not supportive will have no recourse in Johnston.

By requiring special permits, the town is holding patients and caregiver home grows to standards more appropriate for large commercial or retail operations. We have no idea how many grows will be prohibited as a result. Special permit requirements are:

1500 feet from churches, schools, park, playground, youth center, day care or where location where youth congregate. The town can deny a special permit if it determines there would be an adverse effect even if the “facility” is more than 1500 feet away.

1000 feet from town lines

2,000 feet from compassion or cultivation centers

Must be “sufficiently buffered” so it will not adversely affect surrounding residential uses.

Exterior of building must be consistent with neighborhood to prevent “blight” and a decline in property values.

The Police and Town Officials Can Enter Homes   

The ordinance specifically defines inspectors to include police and gives them the right to enter homes without a warrant. We believe that we still have a Constitution in this country and it includes the 4th amendment. We don’t believe this provision is legal and are working with the ACLU.

“Right of Entry for Inspection. A Town Inspector or Building Official may enter to inspect any Medical Marijuana Facility if there is a reasonable belief that any provision of this ordinance or the Medical Marijuana Act has, is, or will be violated.”

No smell. No noise. Must be imperceptible from the outside   Here’s another Johnston innovation:

“That the cultivation and growth of Marijuana could in no way perceptible outside the Medical Marijuana Facility including. This includes, but is not limited to, odors or noises related to the cultivation and growth of Marijuana.”

Comment:  DBR regulations already require carbon filters in all grows. Johnston is banning, not just odor, but noises, too.  Does this mean the whir of fans, air conditioners?  We haven’t heard of plants making lots of noise. This prohibition “is not limited to smell and noise”.  Could also include…….??

Ban on trying to enhance THC     Here’s a unique prohibition:

“That the Medical Marijuana Facility is not being used and could not be used to enhance the effects of the Tetrahydrocannabinol (“THC”) in the Cardholder’s useable or unusable Medical Marijuana.”

Comment:  We tried but we don’t know what this means.

Compressed flammable gas prohibited for “cultivation and growth”

Comment:  Growers use CO2 for growing but it is not flammable so we don’t know what they are talking about.

Making Safe Concentrates – Prohibited      Another unique provision:

“That the Medical Marijuana Facility is not being used and could not be used to extract any chemicals or oils from the Cardholder’s useable or unusable marijuana.”

Comment:  Extracts using compressed combustible gas (butane) is already illegal under state law. The ordinance goes further to prohibit extracts that are effective medicine and are safe to make.

Confidentiality   Requires applications to be kept confidential and sealed. Does not mention specifics. No mention of citations and appeals and how they will be confidential. No mention of the state law that imposes 1000 fine and possible 6 months in jail for anyone who violates a MMj cardholder’s confidentiality.

Compassion centers, cultivators and emporiums (vape lounges) would be allowed by special permitCo-ops are not mentioned in the ordinance. That likely means that non-residential co-ops would not be allowed because the state law requires zoning approval.  Residential co-ops do not require local approval according to the MMj Act.

 Violations   Here’s a new one:   “A violation of this Ordinance shall result in the loss of legal status in the Town of Johnston as a patient or caregiver cardholder in accordance with RIGL 21-28.6. All inspectors, officials, and/or Fire Marshalls, shall be required to report a violation of the provisions of this section to the Rhode Island Department of Health”.       

Comment: The town has no authority to revoke anyone’s legal MMj status.   DoH administers the MMj Act according to the state law, not local town ordinances.

Effective Date  July 10, 2017. The ordinance is already in effect.

 

 

Johnston Public Hearing Tonight

Public Hearing tonight on Johnston ordinance TONIGHT, Monday July 10 at 7:00 PM. at the Johnston Municipal Court Building located at 1600 Atwood Avenue, Johnston.  Apologies for last minute notice.Ordinance would allow both patients and caregivers to still grow but only in their own residences, which are “mmj facilities”.  They can only grow if they submit to fire department inspections, building department inspections and obtain a zoning certificate from the town. Renters must provide notarized statement from their landlords granting permission to grow to the town. Grows will not be allowed unless they meet following requirements:

security alarm system (no specifics)

Two means of egress

No basement grows

Grow Area cannot be within ten (10) feet of a heating or other ignition source such as an electric, propane, natural gas or oil fired furnace or as required per manufacturer specifications

“Proper” ventilation to mitigate the risk of mold

Carbon filters required to reduce odors.

Smoke alarms/detectors installed in accordance with State Fire Code and/or to the satisfaction of the Fire Department.

Home grows would be considered “facilities” and the town would have access as follows: Right of Entry for Inspection. A Town Inspector or Building Official may enter to inspect any Medical Marijuana Facility if there is a reasonable belief that any provision of this ordinance or the Medical Marijuana Act has, is, or will be violated.

No smell. No noise in Johnston Here’s another Johnston innovation:

That the cultivation and growth of Marijuana could in no way perceptible outside the Medical Marijuana Facility including. This includes, but is not limited to, odors or noises related to the cultivation and growth of Marijuana.

Ban on trying to enhance THC     Here’s a unique and confusing prohibition:

That the Medical Marijuana Facility is not being used and could not be used to enhance the effects of the Tetrahydrocannabinol (“THC”) in the Cardholder’s useable or unusable Medical Marijuana.

 

Making Safe Concentrates – Prohibited  :  Extracts using compressed combustible gas (butane) is illegal under state law. The ordinance echoes that but goes further to prohibit extracts that are effective medicine and are safe to make:

That the Medical Marijuana Facility is not being used and could not be used to extract any chemicals or oils from the Cardholder’s useable or unusable marijuana.

 

Johnston thinks it could take away a caregiver or patient’s legal status “A violation of this Ordinance shall result in the loss of legal status in the Town of Johnston as a patient or caregiver cardholder in accordance with RIGL 21-28.6. All inspectors, officials, and/or Fire Marshalls, shall be required to report a violation of the provisions of this section to the Rhode Island Department of Health”.

We don’t believe Johnston could legally void anyone’s legal status.  DoH  is responsible for administering the MMj Act, not local ordinances.

RIPAC and the ACLU filed a joint letter with the Johnston Town Council opposing the ordinance.  If you live or know anyone in Johnston, please ask them to attend the meeting or contact their representative on the town council to let them know that this ordinance undermines the state MMj ACT and will cause legitimate patients and caregivers to close their gardens, leaving patients without access to their medicine.  We are fortunate to have options in RI. Compassion centers don’t work for all patients. Let them know that DBR is regulating patient and caregiver grows and they should invite representative from RIPAC and DBR to educate them about the MMj Program before they take actions that will hurt patients.  We understand that it is not safe for patients and caregivers to speak publicly about their plants don’t want anyone placed in harm’s way. You don’t need to be a patient or a caregiver to speak out on behalf of patients.

RIPAC, Smithfield MMj patients and the ACLU have a case pending against the town of Smithfield for its MMj ordinance.

RIPAC Sues Smithfield

In a lawsuit sponsored by the ACLU, RIPAC, along with two Smithfield patients, is suing the town of Smithfield for its recent ordinance that prohibits  patients from growing more than 2 mature plants and 2 seedlings and prohibits caregivers from growing. To learn more about the lawsuit you can watch a discussion at 6PM tonight on Pat Ford’s new show: https://www.facebook.com/GoLocalProv/?fref=ts

 

RI Court Protects MMj Patient Employees

 Court rules that business violated RI laws by refusing to hire MMj patient.   We Won!!! Some of you may recall when the ACLU filed a law suit on behalf of a MMj patient who was being denied employment because she tested positive for THC in a pre-employment drug screen. That was in 2014. RIPAC alerted the ACLU that many RI employers were not following the RI MMj Act which prohibits employer discrimination against MMj patients.  Our RI MMj ACT specifically prohibits employers from refusing to employ “a person solely for his or her status as a cardholder”.  It was time to stand up and insist that the law be followed. It was difficult to find someone who was willing to sue. Patients looking for jobs were, understandably, not eager to file a law suit . Lucky for us, there was one patient who was willing – Christine Callaghan.  The ACLU took the lead and found a volunteer Attorney, Carly Beauvais Iafrate, to litigate.  She has been litigating this case for three long years. At last, we have a result. And it is the best result.
The defendant company, Darlington Fabrics Company, argued that they didn’t discriminate against Christine because she was a MMj patient, but because she used MMj.  No kidding.  Her attorney argued that “a potential employer’s failure to hire a medical marijuana patient because of, or related to, his or her status as a medical marijuana user and/or cardholder” constitutes disability discrimination in violation of the RI Civil Rights Act, and also violates the medical marijuana law, which protects cardholders from discrimination in employment. Judge Licht agreed.
 
Attorney Iafrate said:  “This decision sends a strong message that people with disabilities simply cannot be denied equal employment opportunities because of the medication they take.  If employers were permitted to discriminate against those using medical marijuana, then the good work done by those to enact the law will be completely undone. The judge’s decision makes clear that this law is not an empty promise.”  
 
Many many thanks to the ACLU, Carly Beauvais and Christine Callaghan.  To read the decision:

Important Notice for Smithfield patients and Smithfield and Glocester caregivers

 Smithfield patients and Smithfield and Glocester caregivers are at risk of receiving zoning citations that will result in violations of privacy, shutting down of caregiver gardens, reducing the number of plants (Smithfield patients) to two plants and/or astronomical zoning fines. We are fortunate that we have lawyers who can help you NOW before the towns take action. We are going to be asking the courts to rule these zoning ordinances illegal and we need you to join in. Our lawyers tell us that they can protect your confidentiality in court. Let’s not wait for something to happen. Free legal help is available for you NOW. We are concerned that if you wait until something happens, we might not be able to help you and you will have to pay for a lawyer. We urge you to meet with our lawyers as soon as possible. You will not be obligated, but you should know your options. You can email JoAnne at joanne@RIpatients.org  or call the ACLU directly at 401.831.7171. Confidentiality is assured.

Seats still available in Grow Class -Tonight

Tonight is an important class and we have openings for tonight and all other classes! Here is the schedule:

May 10       Seed germination, transplanting seedlings, cloning, transplanting clones

May 17       Pests and diseases, prevention, treatment of infected plants

May 24       Vegetative growth, vegetative nutrients, transplanting, topping and training

May 31       Flowering cycle, flowering nutrients, patience

June 7       Harvest, drying, curing

June 14       Making concentrates safely – bubble hash (with ice), butter and tinctures

 You will learn to grow safely and legally. MMj license must be brought to each class with 25 dollar donation.  We suggest registering for all  classes but that is not required. EMAIL: joanne@RIpatients.org to register, for more info, location, etc.   You can also contact Growin’ Crazy     REGISTER NOW!