Senate Passes Bill – Only Governor Chafee Can Stop Bill Now

Late last night, the Senate passed the House’s bill, H 7610 SubA. The bill passed 32-2 with only Senators Miller and Walaska opposing. This vote was in spite of the vast numbers of calls made by members of the MMj community. Only Governor Chaffee can stop this bill by exercising his veto power. He can be reached at 222.2080. Call soon before he signs the bill into law.You can leave him a message urging him to veto H7610 SubA.  Without his veto, this law will take effect September 1. A significant amount of patients and caregivers will have to decrease their plant counts, move to new spaces, or close their gardens altogether before that date or be subject to arrest. We understand that the Attorney General wants to eliminate abuse in the Program but this bill will also eliminate or reduce the amount of medicine currently available to some of our most vulnerable patients. To read the bill, click:   http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText14/HouseText14/H7610A.pdf

New AG Bill Introduced and passes House in same day

In a stunning development, a new AG bill, H7610 sub A, was introduced and unanimously passed the House by a vote of 66-0 yesterday, June 19. The Sub A bill bears little resemblance to the original AG bill. The text was not made available to RIPAC or the public until very late in the day yesterday.  As we were reading it for the first time, it was being voted on by the House. The bill must be passed by the Senate and then be approved (or not vetoed) by the Governor before it can become law.

The bill is expected to go to the Senate TODAY, June 19. The General Assembly is expected to adjourn for the year today or tomorrow. If this bill does not pass the Senate before adjournment, it cannot become law this year.

To express your views you should make an immediate call to your own state senator, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary, and the Senate President.

Senate President:       M.Teresa Paiva Weed                   401.222.6655

Chair of Judiciary:     Senator Michael McCaffrey             401. 739.7576

If you do not know who your Senator is, click on the following link:  https://sos.ri.gov/vic/

As always it is important to be polite. Today is a busy day for Senators. President Paiva-Weed and Senator McCaffrey, like most senators, are supporters of the MMj Program. You want to talk to them about the AG’s bill, S 2566, sub A (this is the number that the Senate gave the AG’s bill. We expect a substitute bill to be put in today so let them know that)

The bill would create a new part of the MMj law which defines and limits “co-op” grows. A co-op is defined as two or more cardholders growing together in residential or non-residential setting. It does not change plant limits for individual patients and caregivers. RIPAC has expressed concern that patients who are now relying on co-ops for their medicine may lose access to that medicine if certain co-ops are required to reduce their size, relocate or even disband under the provisions of this bill.  There are some co-ops that are producing oils for cancer patients and low-income patients who will be adversely affected if this bill were to become law.  If enacted, the bill would go into effect the first of September this year. Here’s a summary:

RESIDENTIAL “CO-OP” GROWS

Two or more cardholders (patients and/or caregivers) could grow together but would be considered a “co-op”.  They could not collectively possess more than 24 mature plants, 12 seedlings, and 10 ounces.  Only one co-op permitted in one building. So, if there is a building with many apartments, there could be only one co-op in entire building. Not clear how patients and caregivers would know whether there are other co-ops in the building.

Residential co-ops would have to register with state police and have an affidavit from an electrician stating that electrical is up to code.  An individual cardholder who is growing by themselves would not be required to register with state police or have an affidavit from electrician.

NON RESIDENTIAL “CO-OP” GROWS

Two or more cardholders could grow together in non-residential setting but could not possess more than 48 mature plants, 24 seedlings, and 10 ounces.  Only one co-op per building. Must be inspected by local city or town building department to ensure compliance with building codes. Must also be inspected by fire department.

Non residential “co-ops” would have to register with state police.  Individual cardholder growing alone would not have to register with state police or be inspected.

Other requirements for “co-ops”:

  • Cardholders could have co-op in one location only.
  • Cultivation cannot be visible from street or public areas.
  •  A written acknowledgement of the limitations of the right to use and possess marijuana for medical purposes in Rhode Island that is signed by each cardholder and is displayed prominently in the premises cooperative cultivation.
  • Violation of above requirements will result in revocation of MMj card.

New exclusions to keep those with criminal convictions from becoming caregivers

The following would disqualify someone from becoming a caregiver: murder, manslaughter, rape, first degree sexual assault, second degree sexual assault, first degree  child molestation, second degree child molestation, kidnapping, first degree arson, second degree  arson, mayhem, robbery, burglary, breaking and entering, assault with a dangerous weapon,  assault or battery involving grave bodily injury, and/or assault with intent to commit any offense  punishable as a felony or a similar offense.  Health Department could make an exception so someone could be caregiver for member of immediate family

Provisions that were in previous version of AG bill that are included in new sub A

  • Would expand definition of “conviction” to include conviction entered by a court subsequent to a finding of guilty or a plea of guilty, those instances where the defendant has entered a plea of nolo contendere and has received a sentence of probation and those instances where a defendant has entered into a deferred sentence agreement with the attorney general.
  •  Landlords could not be forced to let cardholders to grow in rental units. They would have the right to say “no”.
  • Caregivers would be required to have national background check, instead of state BCI, once every two years (do not have to submit for each patient)
  • When police verify MMj card with Health Dept, they may also verify name.  This should keep patients and caregivers who are not in possession of their MMj cards from being arrested because they are without their cards.
  • Patients and caregivers who are convicted of felony drug offenses while in the MMj program would be permanently barred from the program.

To read the bill in its entirety,click:  http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText14/HouseText14/H7610A.pdf

 

Compassion Centers Will Be Allowed to Grow More Plants

In other legislative news,the budget recently passed by the General Assembly contained a provision that will lift the cap on the number of plants the compassion centers are allowed. They will be able to grow enough to reflect the needs of their patients. The Governor is expected to sign the budget.