Town’s marijuana ordinance could face legal challenge

Town’s marijuana ordinance could face legal challenge

NORTH SMITHFIELD – An ordinance adopted last June limiting how and where marijuana can be grown in North Smithfield may have to be rolled back, or defended in court, following a recent Superior Court injunction against a similar law in neighboring Smithfield.

The law, passed unanimously by the Town Council following prompting by officials from the Rhode Island Office of the Attorney General, states that card-holding patients can grow up to 12 plants in North Smithfield, but only with a zoning certificate following inspection and approval by the fire chief.

Licensed cultivators, who by state law can grow up to 500 plants depending on the size of the facility, would need to go before the Zoning Board. All other forms of cultivation, including growth by caregivers, cooperatives and compassion centers, are prohibited.

Steven Brown, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island, said among other issues, that North Smithfield’s ban on caregiver cultivation is “clearly contrary to the state law, which allows it, and in conflict with the Smithfield court decision.”

In Smithfield, the ACLU filed a lawsuit in conjunction with The Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition on behalf of two licensed medical marijuana patients. That town’s law, called the strictest in the state by opponents, also banned caregivers from growing, and limited patients to two plants.

The suit charged that the ordinance impeded medical marijuana patients’ privacy and access to treatment, and undermined state law.

Superior Court Judge Richard Licht agreed in a decision issued last week.

“Apparently the town feels there is no harm in patient cardholders with a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition, such as severe, debilitating chronic pain, seizures, or severe and persistent muscle spasms having to drive out of town to obtain medication,” the judge wrote. “However, the General Assembly concluded otherwise and permitted these patients the right to grow their medication in their own homes.”

On the subject of privacy Licht noted that the ordinance required patients to expose healthcare information that is confidential and protected to Smithfield authorities.

“The plaintiffs face a pressing dilemma – register with the town and lose their state-guaranteed privacy, or risk fines for the possibility of staying anonymous,” the decision states.

When councilors held a public hearing on North Smithfield’s plan, one patient came forward with similar concerns, noting that other types of plant cultivators don’t face scrutiny by a fire chief. Town Planner Tom Kravitz told councilors he felt it was “very clear” that the choice to limit grow operations was with the community, Kravitz did not respond this week to a request for comment on Licht’s decision.

Town Administrator Gary Ezovski said that he feels the town’s ordinance “is substantially different from that established by Smithfield.”

“Our ordinance intentionally avoided some of the restrictions that are present in the Smithfield document,” Ezovski said. “Our focus was oriented more to public health and safety matters.”

Brown said that as a result of the Smithfield decision, his organization is in the process of examining ordinances restricting grow operations in every municipality that passed them.

“We plan on sending a letter to those communities asking them to immediately re-examine the law,” Brown said. “North Smithfield will be one of the communities getting that letter in light of the ordinance they’ve adopted.”

Brown said that while a patient has yet to come forward to challenge the North Smithfield law, the Patient Advocacy Coalition could be on board for any follow-up suits.

But, he noted, “It’s always better to have people who are directly affected by it as well.”

Ezovski said he plans to review the matter with Kravitz and Solicitor David Igliozzi to see if there is a need to recommend changes.

Comments

Curious, might have been better if they just listened before taking action on a stupid ordinance. I told them, I told Gary, no one listened. On council, I did my homework. I never sat at a meeting and didn't know everything I possibly could about each topic we were to discuss. But to quote a sitting council member to remain nameless. "We are the town council, we can do anything we want". Well, do what you want and put the town into yet another lawsuit. Maybe after this ineffective council and leadership's term is done, the voters will wake up and stop voting in their friends and town lifers.

Roseanne

"All other forms of cultivation, including growth by caregivers, cooperatives and compassion centers, are prohibited."

CLEARLY ILLEGAL...ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF THE KINGDOM OF NORTH SMITHFIELD GONE ASTRAY.
GET OVER IT EVOSKI & COMPANY - MARIJUANA IS LEGAL FOR MEDICAL USE, AND, HAS PROVEN TO BE A "GOD SENT" PLANT THAT ALLEVIATES PAIN & SUFFERING FOR THOSE IN NEED GLOBALLY.
GEEZ...

I sent an email to Mr Brown on June 22nd 2017 regarding the impending ordinance. It is a violation of HIPAA.
I am currently in the process of filing a complaint with the RI ACLU.
If they need a patient complaint to get the ball rolling here in N Smithfield, they'll soon have mine.