CRANSTON, R.I. (WJAR) — They showed up with signs, T-shirts, even a motor coach bus rolled into the parking lot of Rhode Island’s Department of Business Regulation, or DBR, which is the agency overseeing the state’s medical marijuana program.
The patients, growers, and pot industry insiders, totaled more than 50 on Monday, and their peaceful demonstration was under the watchful eye of capitol police.
“I haven't taken a prescription drug in seven years. I have Fibromyalgia. I have Lyme disease. I suffer in pain every day and I only use cannabis,” said Donna Marcelonis.
Patients claim they have no idea what the three state-sanctioned dispensaries are selling in Rhode Island because the state isn't testing pot -- not yet.
Lewis Quattrucci, of East Providence, was diagnosed with lymphoma and ditched his Rhode Island medical card for pot in Massachusetts.
“The cannabis is not tested, not fully tested for heavy metals, pesticides, mold and such, and me being a cancer patient, I could die,” he said.
Chris Sands is a licensed Rhode Island cultivator, but hasn’t begun growing marijuana, he said, because the state hasn’t approved his location, one that was already approved in the past for another business.
“They like to hide behind safety, safety, yes, that's important. We still don't have testing protocols in place that meet national standards,” said Sands.
Rhode Island has roughly 18,000 medical marijuana patients.
Protest organizer Jordan Carlson, a marijuana marketer known on social media as the "Farmacist," started an online petition to remove the state's cannabis regulator Norman Birenbaum. Approximately 1,100 people have signed the petition.
“You got all this weed being sold, almost $56 million or more this year in sales at the dispensaries, and not one ounce of that stuff was tested for pharmaceutical-grade pesticides,” said Carlson.
A spokesperson for DBR said the agency's director has confidence in Birenbaum and the Department of Health is in the processing of approving a state testing lab to protect consumers.
"This administration has implemented one of the most transparent and accessible licensing structures in the country, and DBR takes seriously its obligation to ensure a strong system with a level playing field,” said Matt Sheaff.
Legal recreational use was proposed by Gov. Gina Raimondo, but remains stuck in the budgetary process.