2017-12-28 / News

Council to consider marijuana ban Tuesday

A vote on the amended ordinance to regulate marijuana, which was updated to permit cooperative growers, is expected at a public hearing Tuesday before the town councilors.

The measure to ban commercial marijuana was recommended by the planning commissioners following four meetings in August and September. In their report, they favored a prohibition throughout town to protect the rural character and the “health, safety and welfare of its citizens.” The proposal, which will have no effect on medical marijuana patients or their caregivers, would prohibit cultivating, processing, distributing and selling the drug in all 12 of the town’s zoning districts.

This is not the first time the councilors will consider the measure. A public hearing in mid-December was tabled because of concerns from the Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. According to a Dec. 8 letter, the ordinance “severely interferes” with the Medical Marijuana Act passed by the state legislature in 2005.

“This proposal would restrict any growing of medical marijuana in the town in any context except for residential grows,” wrote Steven Brown, the ACLU’s executive director. “It would bar patients from growing medical marijuana outside their residence.”

Town Planner Lisa Bryer heeded Brown’s advice to permit these so-called co-ops, which allow up to four patients and caregivers to grow together under a common roof. Caregivers, who are regulated by the Department of Health, are licensed cultivators who grow for specific patients.

According to Police Chief Ed Mello, a marijuana patient can grow 12 mature plants and 12 seedlings at one time. Each plant, he said, yields 14 to 24 ounces of usable marijuana. If patients are unable to grow the drug themselves, they can tap a caregiver to grow it for them. Each provider can have two patients, which means upwards of 24 plants and 24 seedlings per grower. Every single plant needs to be licensed and tagged by the state Department of Business Regulation. Currently, there are 20 homes in Jamestown that grow marijuana legally, Mello said.

This ordinance, if passed, will not affect those townspeople. It only will ban commercial operations that grow marijuana to sell to compassionate care centers for profit.

— Tim Riel

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