Rhode Island Gov. Chafee Nixes Plan for Cannabis Dispensaries

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Attempts to start medical marijuana dispensaries in Rhode Island are dead in the water, at least for now.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee announced that he will effectively pull the plug on the state’s fledgling dispensary program by nixing plans to license three planned medical marijuana centers. Chafee said that “after much internal and external discussion and research,” he cannot allow the state to license dispensaries under the current law. Doing so, the governor said, would subject patients and dispensary owners to arrests and criminal prosecutions.

Chafee has been dragging his feet since the state’s health department approved the licensing of three pot centers last spring. The governor initially suspended the program after receiving a warning from the federal government that dispensary owners could face prosecution. Other states – including those with existing dispensaries – received similar warnings, but the government has yet to launch any broad crackdown.

The current law allows residents with certain medical conditions to possess small amounts of marijuana, but patients have complained that there are few safe and reliable ways to get cannabis. Chafee said he will work within the existing infrastructure to help patients address that concern.

The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, however, said it is contemplating a lawsuit over the issue, given that lawmakers already approved the creation of dispensaries, also called “compassion centers.”