May 21, 2009 – PROVIDENCE — Three years after legalizing medical marijuana in Rhode Island, House lawmakers Wednesday easily OK’d a plan to create dispensaries that would sell the drug to patients who use it for medicinal purposes.

“To go through cancer, or to go through a debilitating disease is extremely, extremely hard,” said Rep. Thomas C. Slater, the bill’s sponsor and a cancer patient himself. “One day you might feel great, the next day you may have pain all over your body…This bill gives people a safe haven to get help, to get medical marijuana.”

The Senate in April overwhelmingly approved an identical version of the bill. Now each chamber must pass each other’s version for the bill to receive final approval.

Governor Carcieri, a long-time critic of medical marijuana, is expected to veto the measure once it reaches his desk. But the House approved the legislation in a 63-to-5 vote with 7 members absent –– a margin wide enough to easily override a veto.

House Majority Leader Gordon D. Fox indicated that the leadership will seriously consider that option. “I would hope that [the governor] wouldn’t [veto it], and look at the broader issues raised…,” Fox said. “But if he does I think we have the votes to override and I would advocate doing that.”

High above the House floor Wednesday night, medical marijuana patient Ellen Smith of Scituate, who suffers from chronic pain conditions, craned her neck from her spot in a wheelchair to get a better look as the vote took place. When Speaker William J. Murphy announced the legislation had passed, she clapped wildly, her face awash in relief.

Since medical marijuana was legalized in 2006, many of the almost 600 Rhode Islanders like Smith, who are authorized to use drug to relieve pain from certain debilitating diseases, have noted a major loophole in the law: it provided no clear path for them to obtain marijuana, leaving them to try to grow it themselves, or buy it off the streets. Full article here.

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