Sara Withee, Milford Daily News (MA)
local lawmaker whose opposition to legalizing medical marijuana use triggered a 2004 ballot question in his district, said he remains opposed, even after Rhode Island passed such a law this week.
Richard Moore, D-Uxbridge, said similar legislation pending in Massachusetts can only fail.
"Even if we were to pass the bill, it would have no meaning as the Rhode Island bill has no meaning because it’s contradicting a federal law," Moore said. "There’s still very little in the way of research to show smoking helps."
Rhode Island is the 11th state to legalize marijuana for medical use. The state Legislature overrode the governor’s veto Tuesday and voted to allow medical patients to use marijuana to treat ailments associated with cancer, AIDS, HIV infections and other chronic pain conditions. Patients can keep up to 12 plants after receiving a card from a physician certified to write prescriptions.
Maine and Vermont are among the other states that have approved medical marijuana use and legislation is pending in Connecticut.
Two pieces of pro-marijuana legislation are pending in Massachusetts and have had hearings before the Judiciary Committee and the Public Health Committee, according to Whitney Taylor, executive director of the Drug Policy Forum of Massachusetts.
She hopes this week’s vote in Rhode Island propels the bills forward.
"It will show the Massachusetts Legislature that not only is it politically viable to vote and pass a medical marijuana law, but it’s also the right thing to do, from a scientific vantage point, a public health vantage point, a medical vantage point," said Taylor.
Moore maintains the bills should not be passed, saying research has not shown smoking marijuana helps medical patients.
However, he said there is research suggesting some of the plant’s ingredients can be curative and that any movement on medical marijuana should build on that.
"I don’t think it will be by smoking it," he said. "I think it will be in the pill form, not to get people high."
The groups pushing the law in Massachusetts targeted the districts of Moore and state Rep. James Vallee, D-Franklin, among other legislators in 2004, by putting nonbinding ballot questions out to their constituents.
At that point, Moore was serving as chairman of the Senate Public Health Committee and Vallee was co-chairman of the Joint Committee on Criminal Justice. Moore now leads the Health Care Financing Committee while Vallee sits on the Ways and Means Committee.
Vallee’s district in Franklin and Medway voted 60 percent in favor of making marijuana possession a civil violation instead of a criminal offense. Prior to the vote, Vallee said he did not believe decriminalization had enough support among legislators to pass. He did not return calls to his State House office during the past two days seeking comment on the Rhode Island vote.
Moore’s Worcester and Norfolk Senate district voted 69 percent in favor of instructing legislators to vote on medical marijuana legislation, but he reiterated this week that, "You can’t tell someone to break the law, federal or state."
Taylor and her group the Drug Policy Forum of Massachusetts which sponsored the nonbinding ballot questions, said her organization was disappointed it failed to change Moore’s view.
Moore also said if a medical marijuana law was passed, the distribution would be a problem because people will grow marijuana themselves or obtain it on the street.
"I don’t think Rhode Island will be blazing any new trails as far as Massachusetts or any other states are concerned," he said. "We have a far more serious issue with OxyContin and heroin in this state to deal with before marijuana."