Chafee: State cannot proceed with compassion centers


Gov. Lincoln Chafee says Rhode Island will not go ahead with a plan to license medical marijuana centers because the state law allowing for the three centers is illegal under federal law.

Chafee said Thursday internal and external consultations convinced him that the state should not implement the “compassion center” law because it will become a target of federal law enforcement. He said seizures of marijuana and prosecutions would harm patients and caregivers who use or administer marijuana for therapeutic purposes.

“Unfortunately, Rhode Island’s compassion center law is illegal under paramount federal law. I cannot implement a state marijuana cultivation and distribution system which will become a target of federal law enforcement efforts,” Chafee said in a statement.

The state picked three facilities to dispense marijuana under Rhode Island’s medical marijuana law. Last spring, Chafee suspended plans to open the facilities after federal prosecutors warned that the dispensaries could face prosecution for violating federal drug laws.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office told NBC 10 they had no comment.

The governor said he remains committed to improving the existing medical marijuana cultivation and distribution system in Rhode Island.

“I am hopeful that the General Assembly will introduce new legislation in the upcoming session that will address the flaws in, and indeed make improvement to, the existing medical marijuana card and caregiver system while not triggering federal enforcement actions. I pledge to work with advocates, patients, and members of the General Assembly towards that end,” Chafee said.

Medical marijuana advocates held a protest at the State House on Tuesday to urge Chafee to allow three dispensaries to open.

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