RI medical marijuana panel sets first meeting in eight years

Eight years after its formation, a legislative committee tasked with overseeing Rhode Island’s medical marijuana program will meet for the first time on March 28.

It’s unclear why the “Legislative Oversight Commission of the Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act” wasn’t formed until now. But the Providence Journal reported that the oversight committee simply was overlooked until media reports raised the issue in 2015.

When the commission gathers for its inaugural meeting, it won’t have any members from the state’s three dispensaries, according to the newspaper. The Journal noted that dispensary representation isn’t required by law.

The committee does, however, include the head of the patient advocacy group that pushed for Rhode Island’s medical marijuana law as well as two MMJ patients and a caregiver.

The commission appointees include:

  • Ann Assumpico, superintendent colonel, Rhode Island State Police
  • Thomas Handel, physician
  • JoAnne Leppanen, executive director, Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition
  • Rebecca McGoldrick, patient
  • State Sen. Joshua Miller
  • Donna Policastro, nurse
  • State Rep. Scott Slater
  • Ellen Smith, patient
  • Christopher Wolferseder, caregiver

Slater and Miller, both Democrats, are vocal proponents of MMJ.

Rhode Island lawmakers passed legislation to permit dispensaries in 2009, the Journal reported. The law created the commission, which was mandated to meet six times a year. Its responsibilities included making recommendations to the state General Assembly about patient access, physician participation, dispensary efficacy, qualifying medical conditions and research studies.

The commission’s hearings are open to the public, and the panel is required to publish a report of its findings on or before Jan. 1 of every even-numbered year, the newspaper reported.