Lawmakers in Providence are considering changes to the state's existing medical marijuana and decriminalization laws, and bills to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana sales by adults. Hearings on several bills have been scheduled for Wednesday, April 16.
PROVIDENCE, RI — Rhode Island’s 2014 legislative session is underway, and lawmakers in Providence are considering several marijuana bills this year, including changes to the state’s existing medical marijuana and decriminalization laws, and bills to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana sales by adults. Hearings on several bills have been scheduled for Wednesday, April 16, at the state house.
Rhode Island authorized the use of medical marijuana in 2006, and since then lawmakers have worked to expand and improve the state program, most significantly by authorizing medical marijuana dispensaries in 2009, although the first dispensary didn’t open until last year. This year could potentially see some of the most significant changes to the program since the 2009 changes.
House Bill 7981, sponsored by Rep. Scott A. Slater (D-Providence), would add post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the list of conditions that qualify for the state’s medical marijuana program. There are no known pharmaceutical treatments specifically designed or approved to target symptoms of PTSD, an anxiety disorder that is estimated to impact some eight million Americans annually, including many military veterans returning from overseas combat. Currently, only seven states – Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, and Oregon — explicitly allow for the use of medical marijuana to treat symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
The bill would also accelerate the application and approval process for the eligibility of medical marijuana use for any condition if the patient is in hospice care. HB 7981 has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee, and is scheduled for a hearing on April 16.
Rep. Slater is also the sponsor of House Bill 7862, which would allow the state’s medical marijuana dispensaries, referenced as compassion centers in the state program, to set their own limits on the amount of marijuana they grow and have in inventory based on the projected need of their patients.
Currently, the state’s compassion centers are limited to 150 plants (only 90 mature) and 1500 ounces (93.75 pounds) of usable marijuana on hand. HB 7862 would lift these limits, changing the law to read that a compassion center “must limit its inventory of seedlings, plants, and usable marijuana to reflect the projected needs of registered qualifying patients.” HB 7862 is also scheduled for a hearing by the House Judiciary Committee on April 16.
House Bill 7611 would impose advertising restrictions on the state’s medical marijuana dispensaries by prohibiting them from advertising medical marijuana sales in print, broadcast or as in-person solicitation. If passed, the bill would add the following paragraph to the state’s medical marijuana law.
“A compassion center may not advertise medical marijuana sales in print, broadcast, or by paid in-person solicitation of customers. This shall not prevent appropriate signs on the property of the registered compassion center, listings in business directories including phone books, listings in trade or medical publications, or the sponsorship of health or not-for-profit charity or advocacy events; provided, that compassion centers may advertise on the internet only by allowing patients and caregivers to log on to the website with their identification number on their registry identification card. This advertising shall be limited to referencing diagnosed conditions, and shall not allow for discount coupons, nor be directed at minors.”
HB 7611 is also among those bills scheduled for a hearing by the House Judiciary Committee on April 16.