Ri: A problem with pot

RI: A PROBLEM WITH POT
mapinc / 5/18/2011 / Source: Providence Journal

Perhaps it is a sign of the weakness of the local economy, but businesspeople young and old are eyeing the Rhode Island marijuana business as potentially very lucrative perhaps more so than, say, liquor stores!

But the rush to open these "compassion centers," at least officially to be marketed to sick people who seek the pain-relieving qualities of marijuana, has been considerably faster than federal officials’ acceptance. The latest sign of their skepticism came a couple of weeks ago, when U.S. Atty. Peter Neronha said rather ominously that he considered that the three pot dispensaries so far tentatively approved by the Rhode Island Health Department would be large-scale, for-profit pot production centers in violation of federal law. One of them, Summit Medical Compassion Center, in Warwick, plans to be serving 8,000 patients and taking in $25 million in revenue by 2013.

It’s not entirely clear how well these new centers would be policed, including how rigorous the criteria for determining who gets their products would be.

Governor Chafee had no alternative but to put these dispensaries on hold until questions about their federal legality can be resolved. So prospects for a new industry remain murky. ( The current system tolerates letting licensed patients grow a small amount of the weed for themselves or getting it from state-licensed growers or caregivers who are allowed to grow enough for five patients. )

And yet liquor stores open with little rumpus every day. There is more than enough hypocrisy to go around in the sometimes wonderful world of drugs.

In any event, this would ultimately be a conflict between federal and state law. In such cases, federal law, barring an unexpected U.S. Supreme Court ruling, usually wins. Mr. Chafee is wise to wait and get a clearer idea of how high Rhode Island’s plan for this new industry will fly in Washington.

MAP posted-by: Richard Lake

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