Gov. Chafee signs bill allowing medical marijuana dispensaries

PROVIDENCE, RI – Backers of medical marijuana dispensaries are praising state leaders for persevering in the face of federal threats.

Governor Lincoln Chafee has signed into law a bill that will clear the way for the establishment of three small dispensaries, each capable of growing a maximum of 99 mature plants. U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha has said he will enforce federal drug laws but has stopped short of saying he will shut down the so-called "compassion centers."

Joanne Leppanen of the pro-medical marijuana "Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition" says the bill never would have become law without strong backing from the leadership of the General Assembly.

"The leadership really exercised the courage of its convictions in making sure this compromise could happen," says Leppanen. "They're really protecting the patients of this state is what they're doing."

The state health department has granted three dispensary licenses: one each in Providence, Warwick and Portsmouth. It's unclear how long it will take for them to open.

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