Chafee should take cue from NJ on medical marijuana, says advocate

July 21st, 2011 by admin Leave a reply »


PROVIDENCE — Advocates of the state’s medical-marijuana program are hoping that Governor Chafee is paying close attention to New Jersey.

On Tuesday, New Jersey Gov. Christopher J. Christie gave the green light to open six marijuana dispensaries to licensed patients suffering from ailments such as cancer, chronic pain, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis. The surprise announcement came after months of delays over concerns that federal authorities might prosecute state employees affiliated with the medical-marijuana program for drug violations.

Christie, a Republican, who served as U.S. Attorney for New Jersey from 2002 through 2008, said he sought, but never received assurances from the Justice Department that those working in the marijuana programs would be exempt from federal prosecution.

“It’s a risk that I’m taking as governor,” said Christie at an afternoon news conference. “But I’m taking that risk because I believe the need to provide compassionate pain relief to these citizens of our state outweighs the risk that we are taking in moving forward with the program as it is set up.”

JoAnne Leppanen, executive director of the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition, said that Chafee should take a cue from Christie and issue licenses to the three marijuana dispensaries in Rhode Island. Chafee and his staff have repeatedly said that they are uncomfortable issuing the licenses until they get some assurance that state employees who work with the marijuana program will not be prosecuted.

Peter F. Neronha, the U.S. Attorney for Rhode Island, has failed to give Chafee that assurance.

Michael F.

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