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Rhode Island Reefer Madness

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Let me start by saying this, the Medical Cannabis "Program" in Rhode Island, operated fluidly and compassionately since 2006 with little to no oversight. Its certainly convenient now that we have these expanded regulations and "cultivation centers" that we are back to pointing out the Reefer Madness of home growing. In a State that just willfully violated over 17,000 patients medical privacy by handing over the regulation of their medical access to the Department of Business Regulation. Furthermore, selling over 42,000 plant tags to an already financially strapped group of individuals at a rate of $25 each. Seems we have lost our compassionate approach and found yet another way to tax the sick.

In 2006 when some of us got our first medical licenses, we were told time and time again our medical privacy was the states number one priority. We were told this program was about compassionate access and affordable alternatives. As a patient in this program from day one you were given only a little plastic card for assurance and told to safely find Cannabis from a street dealer. Remember, dispensaries didn't open in Rhode Island until 2013. That means thousands of patients provided themselves safely with Cannabis for 7 years with less than 2% of the program being arrested and losing their license for criminal violations. Now we move forward from 2013-2017 (April, 1 2017 RIP Medical Cannabis in RI) another 4 years of growth and patient access being advanced by caregivers, home grows and compassion centers. Again, still only a small percentage of cardholders charged for criminal misconduct and losing their licenses in that time.

The State of Rhode Island does not want to admit that dispensaries purchased a majority of their supply from private patients and caregivers in the form of pounds, certainly not in 2.5 ounce intervals from April 2013 - April 1st 2017. Until April 1st this year, there was this nice little "GREY AREA" in the law that stated you could sell, for profit "LEGALLY GROWN OVERAGES" to a dispensary, provided it was grown with the legal number of plants. Unfortunately this little loophole didn't state when, where, and how you had to do such a thing and also what to do with legally grown overages should you not want to sell it to a dispensary for profit. This meant a big loophole for any patient or caregiver caught with marijuana they legally grew but were in excess of the weight limit imposed. During this time the State rounded up as many patients and caregivers as possible who had more than 70 grams, and charged them with highest possible criminal charge allowing them to plea to lower charges and giving the state the ability to point out the problems with the law.

In an emergency session out of haste, a group of lawmakers came up with the new regulations. A framework allowing the large scale commercial cultivation, and sales to dispensaries, only this time they wrote themselves more into the equation. The 11% sales and excise tax on Cannabis from dispensaries just wasn't enough. The State then decides to create an application for those same people that now costs $5000 dollars just to submit and if you win back your right to grow commercially, you get to pay them anywhere from $5000-$80,000 annually to grow thousands of plants. As of today there are upwards of 120 applications submitted to the DBR, with over 20 currently approved and 8 having already received licenses to operate, where is this money going? Seems to me if they wanted revenue from Cannabis they should have just legalized it, especially considering its already decriminalized. How ethical is it to just keep taking money from people who ultimately aren't making riches from growing themselves medicine?

The factor that the Government misses is that Cannabis is just a plant. Cannabis takes great effort to grow successfully and it even takes the same effort to fail at growing. Growing cannabis is a 4 month process of nature with zero guarantees that you will harvest anything other than disappointment. Why is it that someone who is dying of cancer and wants to take advantage of being able to potentially grow themselves a cure, has to also continually repeat the laborious process. Meaning, why in the world are we forcing people to dance around and stay under these absurd limits instead of just being able to grow 12 plants and keep the entirety of their crop? Any other farming industry in our short summered state enjoys the benefits of harvesting and then canning and preserving their product to enjoy out of season. Why must we pay landlords and electric companies billions of dollars for what the sun and soil provide for free? Imagine the face of thousands of disappointed patients who've been learning to grow the hard way and now are forced to pay another $600 for plant tags on plants that have provided nothing but frustration yet.

Its just sad to see the special interests of a few greedy people take over whats better as a whole, but, hey thats Rhode Island for you.

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