By Rhode Island Marijuana Defense Lawyer Matthew Marin
April 3rd, 2011
Under our current system, medical marijuana is here to stay in Rhode Island. Instead of debating the merits of medical marijuana, lawmakers should focus on creating a workable legal system that our citizens and law enforcement can both understand and comply with.
According to modern medical research conducted by the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine, marijuana has been found to be beneficial in treating or alleviating pain, nausea and other symptoms associated with certain debilitating medical conditions. We need to develop a system that allows those patients in need of marijuana for medical treatment access to marijuana without the fear of prosecution from those enforcing our criminal laws.
Currently, Rhode Island's Medical Marijuana Act decriminalizes both the possession of small quantities of marijuana and the cultivation of a small number of marijuana plants for those registered patients suffering from debilitating medical conditions. On the other hand, possession of even the smallest amount of marijuana without proper registration under the Act remains a misdemeanor criminal offense carrying up to one year in jail. The police, as is their sworn duty, continue to vigorously investigate, arrest, and prosecute Rhode Island's criminal marijuana laws.
The problem with our current system it makes accurate enforcement nearly impossible. Due to Federal HIPAA privacy laws, in most cases the police are unable to determine whether a suspect is a registered patient under the Act prior to their investigation and arrest. Therefore, the system places the burden of asserting the medical use of marijuana on those who have already been charged with a criminal marijuana offense. These individuals, already suffering from debilitating medical conditions, are forced to hire counsel to assert their rights under the statute. They are subjected to the stigma of a formal arrest and criminal court proceedings. And at a minimum, a black mark is placed on their official criminal backgrounds while the case proceeds through the system.
So while our lawmakers' debate the pro's and con's of legalized marijuana, they should take time to consider how those laws will impact the lives of those they are seeking to help. Without changes in enforcement under the current law, the heavy burden of asserting the beneficial medicinal use marijuana will continue to fall on those citizens the law is intended to assist.
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