ACLU sues RI Health dept. over medical marijuana restrictions

PROVIDENCE, RI – The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island is suing the Department of Health over the state's medical marijuana program. The suit alleges the department illegally reversed course on a regulation that allowed nurse practitioners and physicians assistants to sign a patient's application for the program. In August, the department began notifying applicants that only a physician could sign the necessary certification.The ACLU says the department misinterpreted the law, and that it should have gotten public input before making that change. Now, patient advocate and plaintiff JoAnne Leppanen says patients in the program may find it difficult to pay for another doctor visit to get re-certified. They may also face other risks.

"If those licenses expire while their applications have been pending at the health department and getting rejected by the health department, that's it, those legal protections are gone," says Leppanen.

The department of health says it won't comment on pending litigation. But spokeswoman Dara Chadwick said in a statement that the department made the decision after a closer look at the state's recently amended medical marijuana statute.

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