Patients, advocates wait for medical marijuana centers in RI

Providence, R.I. – Medical marijuana advocates say they're sick of waiting for the Rhode Island Health Department. Dozens of patients protested the department's decision to disqualify all 15 applicants to run the state's first medical marijuana retail stores.

Waving signs reading "still waiting for compassion" and "pain doesn't wait," patients and their caregivers cheered on Joanne Leppanen, the executive director of the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition. Leppanen says she was more than shocked when the health department threw out all of the so called compassion center applications on Friday.

"We were absolutely stunned and devastated. It felt like someone kicked us in the stomach and walked away," she said. "Patients in this state have been more than patient with the department. We put our faith in them and they have let us down."

The health department says it disqualified the applications because they didn't meet the minimum scoring requirements or failed some technical requirements like maximum page length or zoning approval.

State law required the licensing of a compassion center by the end of last year.

The Rhode Island patient advocacy coalition is talking with the ACLU about seeking legal action.