ACLU objects to new RI requirement for medical pot

Associated Press Modified: October 8, 2012 at 5:46 pm •  Published: October 8, 2012
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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The Rhode Island American Civil Liberties Union said Monday a revised requirement in the state's medical marijuana program makes it more difficult for people with debilitating conditions to get the medicine they need.

The group said it plans to file a lawsuit challenging the revision, although it said it would not be more specific about the requirement or the planned lawsuit.

This summer, the state Department of Health began requiring patients seeking medical marijuana to obtain an application signed by a doctor. The state previously accepted applications signed by physician's assistants or nurse practitioners, as well.

JoAnne Leppanen, executive director of the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition, estimated that more than 100 applications have been denied because of the new requirement. She questioned whether the state followed its own rulemaking process when it changed the policy.

"Everyone was doing what they were supposed to be doing, and all of a sudden they just said, 'No,'" Leppanen said. "If you're going to change the rules, you have to give notice and have a hearing."

Health department spokeswoman Margarita Jaramillo had no comment Monday on the ACLU's objection to a new requirement or the claim that it prevents patients from getting medical marijuana.

Rhode Island allows approved patients to legally possess a certain amount of marijuana to treat conditions including chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures and multiple sclerosis. More than 4,400 Rhode Islanders are now enrolled in the state's medical marijuana program.