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Rather than acting as the champion of Rhode Island’s Medical Cannabis Program, Governor Lincoln Chafee has failed the medical cannabis community by halting the legislated licensing of dispensaries. Governor Chafee’s failure to effectively implement H5359, the state’s dispensary licensing law, passed overwhelmingly by the legislature, will continue to have a negative effect on those patients who struggle to find adequate and consistent access to medical cannabis.
Attempting to validate his failure to stand behind Rhode Island’s medical cannabis law, Governor Chafee stated:
Federal injunctions, seizures, forfeitures, arrests and prosecutions will only hurt the patients and caregivers that our law was designed to protect.
However, Jesse Stout, founder of the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition, is encouraging the medical cannabis community to act:
Patients and activists who are angered by Chafee’s backsliding should call his office at 401-222-2080 and demand that he follow state law and issue 3 medical marijuana compassion center licenses as planned
A public outcry has also occurred as a result Chafee’s reluctance. A rally of more than 80 people was held this past Saturday to protest the Governor’s decision to abort. Some legislators have even spoken out. Rhode Island Rep. Scott A. Slater (D-Providence) said, “we would urge the governor to follow the law.” According to the Providence Journal, Slater said he is willing to sit down with Chafee to work on a solution.
While federal interference in state medical cannabis laws is possible, this type of cowering will only invite interference in Rhode Island by establishing a political climate where the even the state is questioning the legitimacy of legal access for patients.
Hundreds of Rhode Island patients who suffer from severe and debilitating conditions are still unable to obtain the medication they desperately need because they are unable to grow it for themselves or find a caregiver to grow it for them. Product consistency as well as access to concentrates and other forms of medical cannabis has also been difficult and dangerous for patients without the option of specialty shops that would otherwise provide products and services these patients desperately need.
But for threats from the Obama Justice Department, Governor Chafee had planned to implement the establishment of medical cannabis dispensaries this year. It is shameful that the Governor is turning his back on the thousands of patients across his state who need this law, and the legislature who worked so hard on a plan to license these facilities in communities where access to medical cannabis is needed. Furthermore, it is not the purview of Governor Chafee to aid the Obama Administration in enforcing federal law. Rather, he is responsible for enacting laws passed by the state.