Medical marijuana program advocates are firing back a day after Gov. Lincoln Chafee decided to pull the plug on the state's licensing program.
"We're going to take him to court," said Dr. Seth Bock on Friday.
Last spring, in Portsmouth was one of three in Rhode Island approved for licenses by the Department of Health. Chafee announced on Thursday that the state's medical marijuana program could not proceed "under current law."
"I was hoping the governor would have the courage to do what's right for the patients," said Bock, who owns the Newport Acupuncture and Wellness Spa in Middletown. Bock planned to open his non-profit medical marijuana center at 200 Highpoint Ave., Unit B-6, in Portsmouth.
The Middletown business owner also said he was concerned about the governor's willingness to "issue a decree from his ivory tower."
"I'm very concerned," he said. "He never once reached out to the stakeholders. He did everything behind closed doors."
Advocates for medical marijuana dispensaries rallied at the Rhode Island State House on Tuesday to try and convince the governor to give the OK to three compassion centers previously approved for a license.
The process got put on hold by Gov. Lincoln Chafee in May, after U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha issued a letter saying he did not support the centers. At the time, Chafee said he wanted to discuss the issue with other governors before making a final call.
Steven Brown, executive director of the Rhode Island American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), said on Friday that "the governor has a clear obligation to open these centers."
"I was shocked and extremely dissapointed by his decision," Brown said. "Patients have been waiting and waiting for a very long period of time. Other states have faced this threat from the federal government and opened their centers."
Advocates are in the "preliminary stages" of filing a lawsuit, according to the Rhode Island ACLU executive director.
"We have a tentative agreement with the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition to file suit," he said.
Brown says compassion centers should have been allowed to decide whether or not to open under threats of federal prosecution.
"That's an issue the compassion centers have to deal with, just how real this threat is," he said.
According to Brown, the governor is now "in violation of state law," being the previously approved medical marijuana legislation.
"He (Chafee) shouldn't be the decision-maker for the centers," Brown sai.d "The General Assembly made that decision for him."
The Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition will hold a rally in support of compassion centers Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. on the State House lawn.