Rhode Islanders convicted of felonies will no longer be able to use medical marijuana through the 2006 law that allows it.
Lawmakers in June passed a new set of regulations, amending the existing medical pot law. The changes were made in response to concerns raised by police, who say the law has had unintended consequences.
Property owners may now refuse to lease to tenants who grow weed. Criminal background checks are now mandatory for all applicants seeking to become primary caregivers. And anyone convicted of a felony will lose his or her MMJ registration card.
Other Rules Added
The state’s medical marijuana cooperatives must also follow local safety code rules. This provision was added to the law over concerns about grow lights overheating and starting fires.
In addition, lawmakers set limits on weight, plants and seedlings, for both residential and non-residential grows.
The new law was introduced in the legislature by state Rep. Lisa Tomasso at the bidding of Rhode Island’s attorney general, Peter Kilmartin.
State Has Troubled History with Medical Weed
Rhode Island adopted medical marijuana in 2006, when lawmakers passed the Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act. But the program got off to a slow, rocky start.
Three years after MMJ took effect, lawmakers voted to allow up to three dispensaries in the state. Then-Gov. Donald Carcieri vetoed the legislation, but lawmakers overrode his veto with an overwhelming vote in favor of dispensaries.
Still, there wasn’t a pot shop in Rhode Island until 2013. That’s because in 2011 current Gov. Lincoln Chafee put a hold on dispensary licenses.
A dispensary finally opened in Providence in April 2013, the Thomas C. Slater Compassionate Care Center.
Law Reflects Public Safety Concerns
Rhode Island was one of the earlier states to allow medical marijuana, and the new law reflects growing concern, there and in other parts of the country, about weed and public safety.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, for example, recently signed legislation imposing new rules on marijuana edibles. That move came after reports that two deaths in the state were linked to edible overdoses.
The new regulations in Rhode Island also reflect a tendency in many states to favor property owners over patients. A large portion of the population lives in rental apartments and homes, and allowing landlords to prohibit medical pot would make it difficult, if not impossible, for these patients to use their medication.