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R.I. MS Patient Applies to Use Marijuana

A multiple sclerosis patient who hopes to use marijuana to ease the painful symptoms of her disease became the first person to apply for state permission to legally use the drug under a new Rhode Island law Wednesday.

Rhonda O'Donnell submitted a two-page application and a $75 check to the Department of Health. Once the department confirms her doctor's diagnosis, she will be issued a photo ID card and will be allowed to buy or carry up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana.

"I am just so thankful that our legislators have been compassionate enough to care about the disabled," O'Donnell said.

Rhode Island in January became the 11th state to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes. The drug remains illegal under federal law, however, and even those who get permission from their states to use the drug could still be prosecuted by federal officials.

Health Department spokeswoman Maria Wah-Fitta said the agency has mailed 50 to 60 applications to people interested in getting permission to use marijuana.

The program does not provide marijuana and does not say how people can get the drug.

Applicants must provide certification from a doctor in Rhode Island that says marijuana could mitigate their symptoms. Patients under 18 may use the drug with permission from a parent or legal guardian.

The state's Medical Marijuana Program will expire on June 30, 2007, unless the General Assembly renews it. Gov. Don Carcieri had vetoed the program, but the Legislature overrode his veto.