Its a sad year for civil rights in Rhode Island. In the recently passed budget article 15, for fiscal year 2020, hidden deep in the newly drafted legislation. Rhode Island expressly prohibits the newly coined “Marijuana Emporiums”. For medical cannabis patients this ultimately ends their first amendment right to free assembly and furthermore it directly discriminates against and affects over 20,000 Rhode Islanders.
In what seems to be targeted legislation against Rhode Islands ONLY medical cannabis social club named “TetraHydro Club” in South Kingstown. This new bill seems to have not been read by a single person familiar with the constitution. This bill is so poorly written it bans the medical use of cannabis in any “commercial unit” and at the same time defines “Medical Use” as not only transfer, and distribution, but it includes possession. Merely possessing Cannabis is defined as the “Medical Use” of Cannabis, so how does this even make sense? Policy analysts would rather have patients be criminals again just for peaceably gathering in any commercial unit, strictly due to the fact they cant create a paid license for a private social club.
Rhode Island lawmakers are known for passing sneaky legislation in the last minutes of the budget hearings, but, article 15 takes the cake. This bill is so disgusting if you are a medical cannabis cardholder. Not only does it strip you of all medical privacy. This bill also amends the current law to give the Department of Business entire access to your medically protected, private information. Protected information that will now be used to coordinate with local law enforcement in potential violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA.
This state just cant get its head out of the sand when its comes to practical cannabis policy. We had one chance 3 years ago to hire a sensible and locally known regulator. In true Rhode Island form some politician decided a 28 year old college wrestler named Norman Birenbaum from Newton, Massachusetts, with ZERO CANNABIS knowledge was the proper choice.
Instead of just taxing and making a sensible adult use recreational market this year like our neighbors to the north, Rhode Island lawmakers would rather punitively punish the patients and make them the guinea pig for safe clean cannabis access. Norman Birenbaum the self coined “Cannabis Czar” hasn't even established safe testing protocols for patients medicine in the 3 years he has been in Rhode Island. Norman spent all of this year lobbying for the Governors legalization bill. His attempt to save all the cultivators this bill also now destroys ultimately failed.
Now in the aftermath of that we are left with the approved amended version of article 15 which is a direct assault on the privacy and rights of medical cannabis patients. When will Rhode Island stand up and realize, Cannabis can be used for the collective good of all Rhode Islanders. Rhode Island residents affected by prohibition the most deserve a place in this new industry. It certainly shouldn't just be the same people who created prohibition profiting off it now.