Medical marijuana patients claim Rhode Island puts profit before patients

Medical marijuana patients gathered at the State House on Wednesday to hold a joint press conference with lawmakers.
Compassion Centers

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – Medical marijuana patients gathered at the State House on Wednesday to hold a joint press conference with lawmakers.

At the press conference, Rep. Scott Slater (D-Providence) announced he is concerned the medical marijuana industry is putting profit before patients and as a result, is leaving behind patients who cannot afford the rising costs of medications.

Laws surrounding the sale and purchase of medicinal cannabis have changed almost every year since it was legalized. Patients at the press conference claim those changes aren’t in their favor and are designed to make the state money.

“How could you tax somebody’s medicine? That’s totally unacceptable,” said medical marijuana patient Phil Diamond. 

Diamond has glaucoma and needs eye drops to keep his condition under control.

“Unfortunately those eye drops are as painful as putting bleach in your eyes,” he said. 

He turned to cannabis to make the treatment bearable. 

“With the cannabis and eye drops I got my glaucoma down to a stable level,” said Diamond. 

He and other patients have watched the price of medical marijuana increase year after year. 

“They’ve added that we must pay per plant to be able to grow,” said patient Ellen Smith. “We don’t get reimbursed for our medication. We don’t get a co-pay. Everything we do is totally out of pocket.”

Rep. Slater and Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Cranston, Providence) have introduced bills (2020-S 2544 / 2020-H 7621) that would amend Rhode Island’s medical marijuana program.

The legislation would eliminate the tax on tagged plants. It would also create a “Hardship Registration” that would give at least a 30% discount to patients who receive Social Security disability income, Supplemental Security income, and/or Medicaid. 

“I just feel like we’ve gotten away from compassion and putting patients first,” said Rep. Slater. 

The bills would also allow unlimited compassion center licenses and reduce the compassion center license fee from $500,000 to $5,000.

Categories: News, Politics, Providence, Rhode Island