Judge blocks Smithfield marijuana ordinance

SMITHFIELD, R.I. (WPRI) – A judge on Wednesday blocked the town of Smithfield from enforcing an ordinance adopted to restrict medical marijuana.

Superior Court Judge Richard A. Licht granted the preliminary injunction in a 19-page decision. He said the plaintiffs “have a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits” and “will suffer irreparable harm” if the ordinance takes effect.

“This is a such a relief today,” said JoAnne Leppannen of the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition. “I cannot tell you how frightening this has been for the patients and the caregivers of Smithfield.”

The town adopted the ordinance back in April, and described its purpose as “to regulate the cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana.” Licht wrote, “Broadly speaking, the ordinance restricts who can grow marijuana, where and how it can be grown, and creates a licensing procedure for potential growers.”

The ordinance prohibits Smithfield medical marijuana users from having more than two mature plants and two seedlings; state law allows users to have 12 mature plants. The ordinance also bars caregivers, or people who grow marijuana for designated patients, to cultivate in the town.

“It’s been our opinion from the beginning that the Smithfield ordinance completely undermined the whole purpose of the state’s medical marijuana law, which has been in effect for more than a decade,” said Steven Brown, the executive director of the Rhode Island chapter of the ACLU.

“This decision confirms the legitimacy of Rhode Island’s medical marijuana program and, most importantly, the rights and protections it affords its participants,” C. Alexander Chiulli, a volunteer attorney for the ACLU, said in a statement. “It sends a strong message that municipalities statewide must respect those rights.”

The case is Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition Foundation, Jane Doe I, Jane Doe II v. Town of Smithfield.

Eyewitness News reached out to an attorney for the Town of Smithfield, who declined to comment. Messages left with town officials were not returned.