CommunityPam's House Blend

Rhode Island Senate overrides Gov. Carcieri's veto of Medical Marijuana

Rhode Island is poised to become the third medical marijuana state in New England.

House Blenders: “Radical” Russ is your barista for the next few days while Pam is on vacation for her anniversary.

One of my primary focuses over at Radical Writ is the struggle to overcome 70 years of insane government policy that prohibits the personal private use of marijuana. It’s probably not too hard to figure out that I have a dog in that fight. Besides my own use, which I credit with saving me from alcoholism and curing my depression, I have many friends who are legitimate Oregon medipot patients who would literally die without this non-toxic, highly effective medicine.

To my mind, it is a civil rights struggle. It is like the abortion issue, because both issues deal with a person’s sovereignty over their own body and private medical decisions. It is like the gay rights issue, because both issues deal with the systematic discrimination against a subset of American citizens that some people do not like and most of that subset must live a life “in the closet” if they expect to keep their jobs, positions of reponsibility, and avoid harassment. It is like the race issue, because both issues deal with people who can be visibly discriminated against and suffer disproportionately from the criminal justice system. And it is like the War on Terror issue, because both issues deal with a government that refuses to face the facts, continue to tell lies, waste taxpayer money, and bring death and destruction to Americans and other people of the world.

I’m not saying it’s equal to any of those issues. But there are similarities.

I live my life as an “out and proud” cannabis consumer. I work every day to shatter stereotypes of the lazy, dirty, smelly, “Cheech & Chong”, blazed-out-of-his-mind, stupid stoner. I do not advocate the use of marijuana for anyone; I believe it is a personal decision for adults only. I don’t spend every waking moment puffing spliffs; I like to smoke pot like most Americans like to drink alcohol — after work to relax or at a party to have fun, for example. I am a dedicated, hard-working, taxpaying, law-abiding (well, except that law) American.

Anyway, regardless about what one may think about the legalization or decriminalization of marijuana for personal recreational use, it is near impossible for me to conceive of the spiteful ignorance it must take to deny medical marijuana to sick and dying people.

The tide is turning. First we turned the West Coast green with California in 1996. Oregon followed suit in 1998, and now there are ten states with medical marijuana laws on the books (WA, OR, CA, AK, HI, AZ, CO, MT, VT, ME) and Delaware has an affirmative defense.

Now the good news comes out of Rhode Island. Following the decision in Raich v. Gonzalez, reformers were concerned that the state’s senate would back away from a medical marijuana bill they were considering. They passed it, 32-2. It was then sent to the governor’s desk, who guaranteed he would veto it:

(Newport Daily News) Providence, R.I. — The Senate easily overrode Gov. Donald L. Carcieri’s veto of medical marijuana legislation Thursday, and House leaders promised to do so soon.

If House leaders are able to muster the votes needed to override Carcieri’s veto, Rhode Island would become the 11th state in the country and third in New England to legalize marijuana use for patients with debilitating diseases. Vermont and Maine already have enacted medical marijuana laws.

The Senate voted 28-6 to override Carcieri’s veto. They only needed a 60 percent margin, or 21 votes, for the override. All five of the chamber’s Republicans changed their votes from the first Senate consideration of the bill to support Carcieri. The only Democrat to vote against overriding the veto was Sen. Marc Cote, D-Woonsocket.

“This is going to mean there will be another alternative for people,” said Sen. Rhoda E. Perry, D-Providence, who sponsored the Senate version of the legislation. “They will no longer have to be as frightened of using marijuana for their pain.”

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