Patients In Need Of Medical Marijuana Speak Out Against Rhode Island ‘Sick Tax’


rhode island medical marijuana dispensaryRhode Islanders who use medical marijuana to help manage chronic and debilitating medical conditions spoke out against a proposal in Governor Gina Raimondo’s 2017 budget that would levy heavy taxes on medical marijuana plants grown by patients and caregivers.

At a news conference held by the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island and the RI Patient Advocacy Coalition, patients said this “sick tax” on medical marijuana would be devastating to them and many other patients and caregivers, making it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for them to access the medicine they need to manage their pain and other medical symptoms. The proposed tax, the groups said, has generated a palpable fear in the patient community and should be struck from the proposed budget.

“If these changes become law, I will be effectively forced out of the medical marijuana program,” said Peter Benson, an East Greenwich resident and medical marijuana patient who is paraplegic and uses medical marijuana to control painful and persistent muscle spasms.

The “sick tax” would, according to a fact sheet prepared by the Governor’s office, impose a $150 per plant charge on patients lawfully growing marijuana for medical purposes, and a $350 per plant charge for caregivers volunteering their time and energy to grow plants for sick patients. The proposal also reduces the number of plants that patients can grow.

Ellen Smith, from Scituate, is both a medical marijuana patient and a caregiver for five other patients. She said of the proposed tax: “It would add more than $8,000 a year to the cost of growing medicine for my patients. They can’t afford it and neither can I. It is breaking our hearts.”

The Governor’s fact sheet claims that each marijuana plant is “estimated to generate an average of $17,280 of annual revenue for a caregiver,” and that therefore the tax “amounts to just 2 percent of the value of marijuana produced.” But JoAnne Leppanen, executive director of the RI Patient Advocacy Coalition, noted that patients and caregivers are growing the plants for medical purposes only and make no money from the plants. She pointed to the difficulties and costs patients already face in growing marijuana, and said: “This is a draconian proposal based on fictional numbers that undermines the purpose of the medical marijuana program. It will wreak havoc on the lives and health of thousands of Rhode Islanders.”

Steven Brown, executive director of the ACLU of Rhode Island, added: “Having a medical marijuana program means little if the state makes it impossible for all but the wealthy to actually participate in it. The patients and caregivers affected by this proposal grow medical marijuana to ease their symptoms and to help others; they are not running a lucrative drug trade. The state should treat them just as they would any other patient using legal medication. Imagine charging sick patients prescribed codeine a special tax based on the street value of the medication if they illegally sold it. We fervently hope the Governor will take this troubling tax proposal off the table.” The ACLU has long supported the availability of medical marijuana for patients who could benefit from its use.

Johanna Kaiser

Development & Communications Associate

ACLU of Rhode Island

128 Dorrance Street, Suite 220

Providence, RI 02903

P: (401) 831-7171

F: (401) 831-7175

Become a member of the ACLU:

Make a tax-deductible donation to the ACLU Foundation of Rhode Island:

Source: The Compassion Chronicles


About Author

"Rick Thompson was the Editor in Chief for the entire 2-year run of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Magazine, was the spokesman for the Michigan Association of Compassion Centers and is the current Editor and Lead Blogger for The Compassion Chronicles. Rick has addressed committees in both the House and Senate, has authored over 200 articles on marijuana and is a professional photographer." Rick Thompson Is An Author At The Compassion Chronicles and focuses on all things Michigan.

  • saynotohypocrisy

    The bigot hardliners just won’t give up, they’re determined to cause trouble every fricking step of the way, public opinion and science be damned. If they need money, raise the tax on killers alcohol and tobacco, certainly not on life and health saving medical cannabis.

  • Dave

    That is total insanity damn leeches politicians are. especially since I believe before the end of 2017 marijuana will be legalized for I hate using this word recreational marijuana

    • Gabe

      Do you really think 2017 will be the year of nationwide legalization? Is it that close? I hope so!

      • Dave

        I’m sorry I meant Rhode Island. But nationally would be the goal ultimately

        • Gabe

          I wonder if the expansion of legalization will take as long as the sweeping state by state victories of gay marriage?

          • saynotohypocrisy

            It could take longer. The courts seem extremely biased against us. They utterly refuse to lift a finger to help medical marijuana patients, so matter how desperately they need MMJ. Since they’ve turned their backs on people who are dying, I sure don’t expect shit from them when it comes to non-medical use.

            What I see in Pennsylvania right now is a good example of what we’re up against. Support for medical marijuana is close to 90%, and all the legislature keeps saying is tough shit, let them eat prescription opiates like good Americans. It’s going to be the same with rec marijuana, support will keep growing, and the legislatures and governors will just say, marijuana is dangerous, there is nothing to discuss. And the stinking courts will agree with them, science and human rights being irrelevant to them when the war on users of the ‘wrong’ drugs is concerned.
            And a lot of Democrats, from Obama and Clinton on down, think the rights of gays to equal treatment are precious, but sneer at the idea that cannabis users deserve equal treatment with the alcohol gang.

          • saynotohypocrisy

            It’s likely to take longer. We can’t expect any help from the stinking courts, not even for medical. And many people who abhor discrimination against gays are flaming alcohol supremacist bigots, Cuomo being a leading example.

  • calvet11

    A heavy tax on sick people. Think about that Governor Raimondo, your legacy, you taxed the crap out of a bunch of elderly, ill, retired, limited income, good citizens. And why? Because you can. Another ultra-authoritarian, “servant of the people” what a laugh.

  • Closet Warrior

    Fuck, I’m speechless… How evil!!! Here’s another bat shit crazy proposal I learned about recently. In Tunisia, they’re so hard on drugs and cannabis that they are trying to pass and probably will pas an “Incite drug law” meaning it would be illegal to just TALK about drugs in public!

  • RedSky

    When you consider in the grand scheme of things, the powers that be would rather “cull the herd” than enhance the well being of the population, why are any of us surprised by this never ending constant struggle to have a choice of how we manage are health? They want to vaccinate us to death, fill us full of toxic pharmaceuticals and GMO our food for what ails us. People in the US are the most educated in the world, yet we are not allowed to make choices in how we manage our health as if we are inept, ignorant and incapable of rational thought or deed. Living under such oppression is why most of the population is addicted to dangerous pharmaceuticals so generously given out by the medical community. Cannabis represents a way out of the oppression, a happy ending, support and compassion. The fear that cannabis instills in the ignorant is not about its (fabricated) dangers but about it’s unparalleled medical benefits.