Rhode Island state senators voted on May 3 to permanently approve a program that allows chronically ill patients as well as their caregivers to possess and use marijuana for pain relief. The bill passed on a 28-to-5 vote, which gives it a margin that is wide enough to sustain a possible veto from Republican governor Don Carcieri, who vetoed the original bill in 2005.
Lawmakers in the state house passed an identical measure the day before by a similarly large margin. Last year Rhode Island became the 11th state in the nation to begin a medicinal marijuana program. It was set to expire on June 30 (prior to HIV Plus's press time) unless lawmakers renewed it.
Under the program, patients with HIV, cancer, glaucoma, severe nausea, seizures, or other debilitating illnesses can get permission from state authorities to possess up to 12 marijuana plants and 2H ounces of marijuana in a usable form. That limit is doubled for caregivers.
Rhode Island lawmakers, though, have not established a legal route for buying marijuana. And its sale and use remain illegal under federal law, and federal officials continue their vow to arrest people who possess, grow, or distribute marijuana despite laws that allow for its medicinal use in their home states.