Rhode Island: Unlikely Trio Asks For Life-Or-Death Medical Marijuana Reform


Anne Armstrong, Rhode Island’s Compassion Party’s write-in Gubernatorial candidate, seems almost like a normal Rhode Island mother, bustling about her living room, readying for a French TV News interview.

She speaks and dresses with unpretentious New England charm; you wouldn’t know just by looking at her that just last month, she was a viral video star, covered by CNN, AP, broadcast networks and Huffington Post. It’s hard to imagine that the woman gently mixing tiny doses of cannabis oil into a baking dish with coconut oil has an international cult following.

Armstrong on Tuesday gave hope to many of her followers who are in desperate life-or-death need of medical cannabis, by filing and serving a Constitutional complaint against Rhode Island’s cannabis ban and medical exemption restrictions. The candidate says those restrictions are catching the most gravely ill patients in chokepoints that threaten human life directly, while not even achieving any real purpose.

Ask Armstrong’s media outreach coordinator why he volunteers for her, and he points to the tiny dose of cannabis oil on the counter.

“See that stuff? Anne saved my friend’s life with that oil,” said activist Alan Gordon, who is also a plaintiff in the legal action along with unnamed female cancer patient "Jane Doe," who relies upon the cannabis oil to live. Gordon said Rhode Island law bans him from growing medical cannabis for patients in life-or-death need because he was once felonized for cultivation in Georgia.

According to Gordon, the State punished him twice for the same offense when, long after he served a sentence in Georgia for cultivating cannabis, Rhode Island passed a law banning him from growing medical cannabis. Worse still, Gordon’s felony was unconditionally pardoned in 2010, but R.I. statute says that he must stand by and watch patients die for want of expert growers, even though he is an seasoned grower who knows how to help.

Armstrong said the lawsuit was inspired when September 2014 regulatory changes made it even more difficult for already-struggling patients (such as “Jane Doe”) suffering from cancer and other life-threatening ailments to obtain enough medical cannabis to save their own lives.

Outside the Governor’s office, Armstrong has a glint in her eye and a real, legal medical cannabis flower boutonniere affixed to her coat, for all to see at the Statehouse. Security staff there were friendly and professional.

In the plaintiffs’ joint statement, Armstrong, Gordon and Doe state: “Our legal research team suggests that Rhode Island’s strong Constitutional protection for Life and Religious Practice, coupled with the recent Hobby Lobby decision by the Supreme Court, means that in a life or death case like cancer, where cannabis is likely to save life, the State may not hinder our religious practice of saving lives.”