Who's afraid of medical marijuana?

This week, as the General Assembly votes to make permanent Rhode Island's medical marijuana law, Te-Ping Chen reports in the Phoenix that the measure's implementation has taken place with relatively few snags or problems:

In January 2006, the General Assembly resoundingly overrode Governor Donald L. Carcieri’s veto, thereby making medical marijuana legal in Rhode Island. The law — which allows patients suffering from “chronic and debilitating” medical conditions to use the drug, so long as they obtain a state-certified physician’s permission — is scheduled to expire June 30.
The sunset provision was included, notes Representative Thomas Slater (D-Providence), the prime sponsor of the House effort in 2005, “[Because] we wanted a trial period to prove there wouldn’t be problems with this kind of legislation.” Opponents, including Carcieri, had cited fears that illegal use of marijuana could proliferate, and that insufficient controls existed for the production and distribution of the drug for its intended purpose.
Yet since going into effect in April 2006, Rhode Island’s program has been conspicuous mostly for its lack of controversy. Charles Alexandre, the state Health Department’s chief of Health Professions Regulation, describes the law as having “worked well and been pretty uneventful.”
Even the police chief in North Kingstown, whose department made the arrest last fall of a registered medical marijuana user who was busted after soliciting underage girls on MySpace to smoke pot, calls that case an “aberration.”
. . . .
As it stands, the state’s medical marijuana law enjoys robust public approval — a Mason-Dixon poll last September found that 79 percent of Rhode Islanders support the current program. And perhaps that’s not surprising. In a small state like Rhode Island, where the traditional six degrees of separation quickly gets streamlined into relationships far more intimate and immediate, the issue can be understood quite simply. A coworker with cancer, an uncle with AIDS: push deeply enough, it seems, and everyone has a story.
. . . .
Yet on a national level, the science of the drug, and the social implications of its medical use, remain hotly contested political topics. As more than 20 states gear up to consider medical marijuana bills, it’s open season on the issue — potentially making the experience of states like Rhode Island more relevant in the ongoing debate.

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