House Hearing on Bills Wednesday – PTSD and Seedlings – H6091 UPDATE

There will be a hearing before on the House Committee on Judiciary on Wednesday April 29 on two MMj bills:   (1) H5766, would add PTSD to list of qualifying conditions for the MMj Program. To view the bill: http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText15/HouseText15/H5766.pdf .  (2) H5624 would restore the number of seedlings that an individual who is both a patient and caregiver to 24. The legislation that passed last year reduced the number of seedling to 12. To view the bill:  http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText15/HouseText15/H5624.pdf 

The hearing will be in room 101. The tax and regulate bill, which would legalize cannabis for recreational use will also be heard. The hearings start at 4pm but the chairman of the Committee told us that the MMj bills may not be heard until 8pm, after the tax and regulate bill.  We are recommending that anyone who wishes to testify arrive by 6:30pm but be prepared to wait. Also, check this site and RIPAC’s fb page for any changes.

It is official!  H6091, was originally scheduled for Wednesday’s hearing but was withdrawn by the sponsor, Chairman Keable. H6091 was the House bill that would have eliminated caregivers. He has withdrawn the bill and does NOT plan to introduce it again. The chairman was affected by his conversations with patients and their caregivers and said he does not want to restrict the availability of MMj to the patients who use it.  S0791, the identical bill in the Senate, has not been withdrawn so patients and caregivers should continue to call their state senators.

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House Version of S0791 to Eliminate Caregivers Has Been Filed

As expected, the House version of S0791 has been filed. The House bill is H6091 and is identical to S0791. It is sponsored by Representatives Keable  (Chairman of  House Judiciary Committee, represents Burrillville, Gloucester area)  and Carnavale (represents parts of Providence and Johnston).

According to the latest Health Department figures, Rhode Island  has 10,881 MMj patients and 3373 caregivers. Those caregivers are providing for 5512 of the MMj patients. S0791 and H6091 would make caregivers illegal, the day the legislation passes.  Thousands of patients will not have other options. For them, it will be as if the Medical Marijuana Act, which has given them legal access to affordable medicine and a better quality of life, suddenly disappeared.

If you are interested in keeping caregivers, then educate your state local representative and senator. Explain to them how caregivers make a difference in the lives of patients and what will happen without them. Many state reps and senators will not understand unless you explain it to them.  In the meanwhile, there are profit motivated interests willing to tell your local senator and representative why caregivers should be eliminated. Speak up today!     To find our local state representative and senator go to:  https://sos.ri.gov/vic/  

JUST SAY NO to S0791 ! Patients Need YOU! Your Call Will Help. NOW

SAVE THE CAREGIVERS, SAVE THE PATIENTS,….JUST SAY NO to S0791

S0791 would eliminate caregivers and create two “for profit” cultivation centers in addition to the three compassion centers and their three cultivation centers.

All patients and all caregivers should ACT on this bill now !!

S0791 is the most serious threat we have seen to caregiver grow rights.  Thousands of caregivers who are now growing MMj for their patients would be forced to kill all their plants the day this bill is enacted.

Patients who currently rely on caregivers to produce medicine for them would be forced to rely on compassion centers or go without.  The reason so many patients need caregivers is that the compassion centers are unaffordable and/or do not have the strain or type of cannabis that the patient needs. The compassion centers were meant to be an OPTION, not a monopoly.

For many patients, it will be as if the MMj Program disappeared because they will no longer have access to affordable medicine.  There is no accurate way to determine the human suffering, premature deaths, return to opiate dependency/addiction that could result from eliminating caregivers.  We hope we never have to find out.

We should all remember that the majority of patients include those living on disability and SSI and SSDI.  The typical disabled patient who lives on SSI and comes to RIPAC is struggling to survive on less than 1000 dollars per month. Many of them have the good fortune to have the help of a benevolent caregiver. Some of these caregivers ask their patients to pay a nominal amount to reimburse them for expenses, some provide medicine  for free, or almost free to patients. All of these caregivers provide medicine to their patients for a fraction of what the patients would have to pay at the compassion centers.

The MMj Program was created in 2006 as a compassionate measure for patients suffering from severe debilitating illnesses.  Do not let profiteers steal this program.

The people behind this bill have a lot of money and they want to make more money at the expense of patients. Stand up and say NO.  We may not have a lot of money, but we can be proud of our truth. More than 10,000 patients have a better quality of life because of the MMj Program.  More than 3,500 caregivers have assisted patients in achieving that better quality of life.

What can you do?

You can help stop this bill.

First question:  Are you registered to vote? If not, register so that your voice will matter.

DO NOT WAIT FOR SOMEONE ELSE TO MAKE CALLS. If you and five people you know make phone calls, we will likely stop this bill. Call your state senator now (not Sheldon Whitehouse, Jack Reed, Reps. Cicilline or Langevin).  Call your STATE SENATOR.  If you do not know who that is, call your town or city hall or go to the Voter Info Center:   https://sos.ri.gov/vic/    If you scroll down, you can put in your address and find out who your state senator is.  While you are at it, you should also find out who your state representative is.  So far, this bill is only in the Senate.  It will soon be in the House so be prepared to contact your state representative as well.

Be sure you are registered to vote!

Stand up and make a call today.  Call for all those patients who are too sick to call. Call NOW.

RIPAC will be setting up meetings throughout the state in the next couple of weeks.  If you want to help organize efforts or need suggestions about talking to your senator and state representative, we support you and are here to help.

In the meanwhile, call us and we will do our best by phone.  But before you do that, make sure you are registered to vote. Your Senator and State Representative care about their constituents. They all have to get re-elected to stay in office and only their constituents can do that!

The RI Medical Marijuana Community is like no other.  We are patients. We are caregivers. We are spouses, siblings, children and so much more.  Entire families and communities are benefiting from the caregiver program, whether it is helping your uncle who has MS or your nephew who just got a job at the local grow shop.

We are all capable of caring about patients. We are all capable of voting. We are all capable of a phone call to just say NO.

… JUST SAY NO to S0791 Make your calls today!

General Assembly Considering PTSD

Once again, the Legislature is considering adding PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions for the Medical Marijuana Program. The Senate Committee heard testimony from advocates yesterday on Senate Bill 0475 which would add PTSD and provide  special consideration for hospice patients (expedited applications and fee waivers).   http://www.providencejournal.com/article/20150409/NEWS/150409264/13943    The hearing on the identical House Bill, 5766 has not yet been scheduled. To support the bill, please contact your state representative and senator.

Bill Seeks to Eliminate Caregivers

A new senate bill, S0791, would eliminate caregivers and create two “for-profit” entities that will grow and sell cannabis to the compassion centers. You can view the bill:  http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText15/SenateText15/S0791.pdf  (if link does not work, please copy and paste into your browser).  So far, there is no House version of the bill. The difference between this bill and previous bills that have attacked grow rights, is that this bill was NOT initiated by the Attorney General or any public official. This bill was filed at the request of private FOR PROFIT BUSINESS INTERESTS who have the means to hire TWO lobbyists. Our understanding is that Rhode Island Growers and Distributors is paying lobbyists 11,000 dollars a month. Those lobbyists are both former members of the Legislature.  You can view the lobbyists’ report at :  https://www.lobbytracker.sos.ri.gov/Public/LobbyingReports.aspx  (if link is not working, please cut and paste into your browser).  This bill would be a disaster for thousands of patients who are rely on caregivers. Unclear why anyone would think this bill is a good idea (with the exception of the cultivation center owners who are profit motivated). The compassion centers can already, due to legislation enacted last year, grow as many plants as they believe their patients need. Why would RI need two for profit cultivation centers to grow for the compassion centers when the law already allows the compassion centers to be their own cultivation centers? It is also not clear what the cultivation centers would do with all that cannabis if the compassion centers don’t want it.

The RI Medical Marijuana Program was established to help patients suffering from severe debilitating medical conditions. It was an act of compassion led by the late Representative Thomas C. Slater and former Senator Rhoda Perry.  As the Program expands and the prospect of legalization grows, more and more people are looking to the Medical Marijuana Program as a business opportunity. This bill is the most extreme example we have seen, so far, of opportunism at the expense the patients.

If this bill were to become law, caregivers would cease to exist the day it was passed. Caregivers would immediately lose all protections. Plants throughout the state would be destroyed and thousands of patients would be stranded, with no access to their medicine. While the compassion centers are an important option, they are not for everyone. Unlike other medications, there is no third party reimbursement, no insurance companies covering the costs of MMj. A significant portion of the patients in this Program are disabled and living on less than 1,000 dollars a month. Caregivers throughout the state are taking care of their family members, neighbors and/or friends because they care about them. They are not making any money. In fact, a substantial number do not even ask their patients to reimburse them for expenses because they know that their patients are struggling financially and/or are extremely sick. There are also hundreds of caregivers who are taking care of patients who came to them as strangers with no money and in need of help.. Good caregivers are the unsung heroes of this Program. They do not want attention, ask for little and thrive on the satisfaction of watching cannabis ease their patients’ suffering, prolong their lives, free them from opiates, and give them and their families a better quality of life. There are just some things that money cannot buy. The Rhode Island MMj Program is full of good people quietly taking good care of others.  It is the best of Rhode Island and the best of humanity. This bill, S0791 would destroy that.

A caregiver who is growing for his brother with stage 4 cancer would have to stop growing the only medicine that makes it possible for his brother to function. A caregiver who is helping her sister, who is suffering from the unbearable effects of advanced MS, would have to destroy the plants the day this bill is passed. Of course, many caregivers will never abandon their patients and they will continue to grow and they will be prosecuted as if they were drug dealers. We will be back to where we were before the Medical Marijuana Act was enacted in 2006.

What can you do?  Pick up the phone now. Call your state senator. Educate them. Some senators only know about the arrests and problems in the Program.  You know more. Help them to see the Program through your eyes. How will they know if we don’t tell them? They may be thinking all patients can just grow their own medicine or go to compassion centers. “Why do we need caregivers? What’s the big deal?”  Explain to them what will happen to patients if good caregivers disappear. How will senators know about the importance of caregivers unless we tell them?

Please call your STATE senator – not Senators Sheldon Whitehouse or Jack Reed. They are federal. Not Representatives Langevin or Cicilline. They are federal and have nothing to do with this bill. If you do not know who your state senator is, now is a good time to find out. You can call your local town or city hall and they will likely tell you or you can go to the Voter Info Center:  https://sos.ri.gov/vic/    If you scroll down, you can put in your address and find out who your state senator is.  While you are at it, you should also find out who your state representative is.  So far, this bill is only in the Senate. If the lobbyists find a sponsor, it will soon be in the House so be prepared to contact your state representative as well.

The lead sponsor of the bill is Senator Ciccone from North Providence. The other sponsors are Senators Lombardi from Cranston, McCaffrey from Warwick (district 29), Felag (who represents Bristol, Tiverton, and Warren), and Walaska (Warwick, district 30). This bill will have a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Senator McCaffrey is the chairperson of the committee.  Senator Lombardi is a member. Senator Teresa Paiva-Weed is the President of the Senate. They are key in determining the fate of this bill.

If you need contact info for a Senator click on: http://www.rilin.state.ri.us/senators/default.aspx

Please keep in mind that if you are involved with the MMj Program, you know more than the Senator you are calling.  Many of us are angry and with good reason. It is important to keep that anger in check while advocating for patients and caregivers.  Callers who are perceived as “obnoxious” will hurt more than help. If we take our anger out on the person we are trying to educate, we will not succeed.

Please check our website, www.RIpatients.org for updates.

New Bill Would Eliminate Caregivers and Establish “For-Profit” Cultivation Centers

A  new bill, S0791, was made available today. If enacted, it would eliminate caregivers and create two “for-profit” entities that could sell to the compassion centers. You can view the bill at http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText15/SenateText15/S0791.pdf.  So far, there is no House version of the bill.  We will soon be posting a more detailed analysis.

Update on legality of BHO

While the state Attorney General’s office has refused to provide us with answers to questions regarding the making of BHO (butane hash/honey oil), a local news station reports that police were instructed to make arrests based on the number of plants and amounts of usable cannabis is possession of cardholders who are making BHO. While BHO equipment is confiscated, we are not aware of any charges that are specific to making BHO.    http://wpri.com/2015/03/30/potentially-explosive-ri-hash-oil-operations-busted/

There is no mention of BHO in the RI MMj Act and we are not aware of any RI law that specifically forbids it. However, there are still very serious concerns and law enforcement is focusing on those making BHO.  Any cardholder who is over their limit on plants and/or usable cannabis will likely be prosecuted.  It is not clear to us what would happen to a cardholder who is compliant with all limits and has BHO making equipment. We should keep in mind that even if the AG does not prosecute, federal authorities could. .