The General Assembly of Rhode Island voted Tuesday to override Republican Governor Don Carcieri's veto and became the third state in the U.S. to allow the sale of medicinal marijuana.
Though Carcieri warned that the new law could promote the use of illegal drugs amongst citizens, the House voted unanimously 68-0 and the Senate voted 35-3 to override Rhode Island's governor of six years.
Although the state has permitted chronically ill patients to possess the “Schedule I” drug since 2006, the sale of marijuana remained illegal until Tuesday, when the General Assembly voted to pass a bill that would allow for marijuana dispensaries to operate legally in Rhode Island.
California and New Mexico are the only other states in the U.S. in which patients can purchase marijuana directly from authorized stores, while Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Maine are currently deliberating pushing similar legislation.
Enrollees of Rhode Island's Medical Marijuana Program have reported being assaulted by dealers on street; until now there was no way to mitigate the risk of being attacked when trying to obtain medicinal marijuana. Approximately 600 citizens participate in the program, which mandates that medicinal marijuana users register with the state and obtain an identification card.
“This gives a safe haven for those who have to go into seedy areas to try to get marijuana,“ said Slater, the bill’s sponsor and a cancer victim currently undergoing treatment. Slater announced on Saturday that he would use marijuana to treat his own chronic illness.
The Rhode Island Department of Health will license three nonprofit “Compassion Centers” (marijuana dispensaries) by the end of 2011 that will grow and sell marijuana. There are no plans to cap the number of enrolless in the program.
While the sale of any marijuana is still against Federal Law, President Barack Obama’s administration has said that dispensaries that comply with state law will not be targeted.
"The president believes that federal resources should not be used to circumvent state laws, and as he continues to appoint senior leadership to fill out the ranks of the federal government, he expects them to review their policies with that in mind," said White House spokesman Nick Shapiro earlier this year.