Inside look at first RI marijuana dispensary - ABC6 - Providence, RI and New Bedford, MA News, Weather

Inside look at first RI marijuana dispensary

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Andrea Medeiros

We are getting an inside look at Rhode Island's first medical marijuana dispensary. It's been in the works for four years, and it will soon serve thousands of patients.

One patient says she's in desperate need of the drug. The former school teacher lives in constant pain. The only thing that helps, she says, is marijuana, so she converted her basement into a growing operation. But soon, people like her won't have to do that, because of compassion centers.

Ellen Lenox Smith is in so much pain she can't climb the stairs, so she uses a motorized chair to get to the basement where she grows her marijuana.

"It's the only thing I have," said Smith, "This is it."

Smith has had 21 surgeries for two rare conditions doctors can't cure. Without the oil she gets from marijuana, she can't sleep, so she and her husband spend hours a day planting and growing dozens of marijuana plants.

"We've done the best we could in the time we've waited for the compassion center to open," said Smith, "We've taken on patients. We each have five patients that we also grow for to help out the best we could."

Now after four years, there's some relief. A compassion center in Providence will open as early as the end of April, serving five thousand medical marijuana patients like Smith.

"Right now there is no safe, accessible place where patients can go and get their medicine, said Thomas Slater Compassion Center Spokesman Chris Reilly, "For us, all the medicine that we provide will be tested by an independent lab to ensure that there are no molds or toxins, so we're able to ensure that the medicine is safe."

Which in a couple years will likely be the only place Smith will be able to turn. With her deteriorating health, she knows she can't keep growing marijuana forever. And she definitely can't give up marijuana.

"Uh truth," said Smith, "We wouldn't be having this conversation. I wouldn't be alive. I mean, I don't have anything else to turn to."

The Thomas Slater Compassion Center in Providence still needs the final okay from the health department. Patients are already signing up. Two other centers in Portsmouth and Warwick are also in the works.

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