More than 250 Rhode Islanders register for medical marijuana

September 18, 2006

, Boston Globe

PROVIDENCE, R.I. --More than 250 Rhode Islanders are now permitted to possess small amounts of marijuana under the state's medical marijuana program, according to health authorities.

Rhode Island in January became the 11th state to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes, and patients and caregivers began registering in April.

To enroll, patients need documentation from a doctor saying they have one of several chronic illnesses, such as cancer or AIDS, and that the benefits of marijuana use outweigh the risks.

Charles Alexandre, chief of health professions regulation, said state authorities initially guessed about 1,500 people would register with the Department of Health. But the actual numbers have been much lower.

Health officials say 131 patients have received cards allowing them to possess 12 marijuana plants or 2.5 ounces of the drug. An additional 129 caregivers have also registered, allowing them to supply up to five registered patients with marijuana.

While the state authorized limited possession for medical purposes, the law doesn't say how patients can buy the drug. Possessing marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

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