Providence, R.I. -- The House of Representatives is expected to meet early Tuesday, the first day of the 2006 legislative session, to override the governor's veto of medical marijuana legislation.
Last year, both the House and Senate overwhelmingly approved the legislation, but Gov. Donald L. Carcieri vetoed the bill. The Senate easily overrode the veto before the legislature recessed for the year. House leaders said at the time that they expected the General Assembly to return sometime in September to consider several of the governor's vetoes, but it never did.
Since the legislature recessed but did not adjourn the 2005 session, the House can still consider overriding any vetoes. House leaders have sent letters to all representatives informing them of their intent to override the medical marijuana veto at 2 p.m. Tuesday, according to one legislative staffer. The regular 2006 session is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m.
If the House joins the Senate in overriding Carcieri's veto, Rhode Island would become the 11th state in the country to legalize marijuana use. The House needs a 60 percent margin to override the veto. The House originally approved the bill by a 51-10 vote.
"We're obviously very excited about it," said Christopher A. Butler, executive director of AIDS Project Rhode Island. "It will provide much-needed relief for people."
The legislation would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana for patients with serious debilitating diseases including cancer, multiple sclerosis, AIDS and Lou Gehrig's disease. Once the state Department of Health is notified by the doctor of that prescription, it would issue identification cards to the patient and up to two caregivers, who would be able to help the patient procure marijuana.
Although the law would exempt the patient and caregivers from prosecution for possessing marijuana, it would not exempt those who sell the drug to the patient or caregiver.
Approved patients would be able to possess up to 2.5 ounces of "usable marijuana," which would not include stems and seeds, or grow up to 12 marijuana plants at home for their own personal use. The bill would require the Department of Health to issue a progress report on the law to the General Assembly by January 2007.
The law would expire June 30, 2007, unless renewed by the legislature.
California was the first state to enact a medical marijuana law in 1996. Since then Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington have enacted similar legislation.
All but Hawaii and Vermont enacted their laws through voter-approved ballot initiatives.
Source: Newport Daily News, The (RI)
Author: Joe Baker, Daily News Staff
Published: Friday, December 30, 2005
Copyright: 2005 Newport Daily News