Perhaps as soon as today, Rhode Island Gov. Don Carcieri is expected to veto a long-anticipated bill that would make permanent a state program allowing the use of marijuana to treat pain associated with long-term and terminal illnesses.
The bill, which passed the state Senate on Thursday, received overwhelming approval from both legislative houses despite the governors warnings that he will veto it because of concerns that it violates federal law. Regardless of whatever action the Rhode Island Assembly takes, the use of marijuana remains illegal under federal law, said the governors press secretary, Jeff Neal. This law would expose Rhode Islanders to potential federal prosecution and unregulated and potentially dangerous substances.
Proponents of the bill say there is enough support, however, to override the expected veto. Such a move would mark the second time state legislators have overridden the governors attempt to block the use of marijuana in treating pain associated with medical conditions. Carcieri vetoed a pilot program in January 2006 that allowed the state to examine how the medical treatment provision would work. That legislation will sunset on June 30 unless a permanent law is enacted.
Under the new bill, patients with debilitating illness would, under a doctors care, be allowed to obtain or grow marijuana in very limited quantitiesup to 2.5 usable ounces or 12 plantsfor their own use. Medical caregivers also would be allowed to grow or purchase marijuana for use by their patients. Patients and caregivers would be required to register with the Department of Health for an identification card that would protect them from arrest under the state law. -- by Shawn Rhea