Patient Advocates Protest Bill That Would Ban Medical Marijuana Caregivers

Apr 7, 2015

Advocates for patients who use medical marijuana are protesting a new bill that would quash a key component of the state’s medical marijuana program. The new bill would eliminate caregivers.

Marijuana plant
Credit U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Caregivers are licensed by the state to grow a small number of marijuana plants for a patient. Sen. Frank Ciccone (D-Providence, N. Providence) and several other lawmakers have introduced amendments to the state’s medical marijuana law that would do away with caregivers. That means patients would only be able to buy marijuana from compassion centers, or retail medical marijuana establishments.

The bill would also create two new medical marijuana cultivation centers authorized to grow and sell plants to compassion centers. Patient advocates, such as the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition, say caregivers are essential to program participants, many of whom find traveling difficult or can’t afford retail prices.

The number of plants caregivers can grow was reduced last fall because of concerns about possible illegal growing and distribution, according to the Attorney General's office.  But patient advocates say it’s not public safety officials, but for-profit marijuana growers, who are behind the current bill.