Medical pot advocates to Chafee: Defy the U.S. attorney

Advocates called on Gov. Lincoln Chafee to defy Rhode Island’s U.S. Attorney and continue with the state’s medical marijuana dispensary program.

Peter Neronha wrote Chafee on April 29 to warn that dispensaries could be prosecuted for violating federal drug laws even if they operate with state permission.

Patients and advocates said at a press conference at the State House on Wednesday that it’s cruel to force people to hunt for their medicine on the street.

One patient said he was looking for medical marijuana near Prairie Avenue in Providence when a12-year-old put a gun to his head and told him to leave or he would be shot.

“When I was trying to get medication for myself near Prairie Avenue in Providence, when a 12-year-old boy put a gun to my head and told me to leave or I would be shot,” said patient William Cotton.

Chafee announced Monday that the state would hold off giving final permits to three groups picked by the state to supply marijuana through the state’s medical marijuana program. The so-called “compassion centers” had hoped to receive final state approval this summer.

“Let it be known that we are not drug cartels hiding behind a veil of state law. Quite the contrary,” said Dr. Seth Bock of the Greenleaf Compassion Center. “And by definition, compassion centers are caregivers. We are health care providers that have devoted our lives to help people in need. Furthermore we are bound to the identical per patient production limits as individual caregivers and their patients.”

“The U.S. Attorney’s office is down the street, never once was there a concern, a voice about how this structure was going to be implemented. There was never an objection raised by the federal government. We have always been under the understanding that as long as we are not in violation of state law that we are legal,” JoAnne Leppanen of the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition.

The governor believes that if we proceed on the present course, he’d be putting the compassion centers and people associated with the compassion centers at great risk,” said Chafee spokesman Mike Trainor.

Trainor said Chafee wants to engage in discussion with other governors of states with similar medical marijuana dispensary programs.

Most of those states also received warning letters from federal authorities.

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