Wednesday, April 27, 2011

RI MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Watson says he used marijuana to self-treat medical condition

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By Katherine Gregg

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - In a deeply personal speech on the House floor about his arrest at a sobriety checkpoint in Connecticut last Friday night, House Minority Leader Robert A. Watson told colleagues Tuesday he has used marijuana to treat flare-ups of the pancreatitis that landed him in the hospital - and a five-day coma - last November.

He said he had taken a small amount of the drug with him when he went to Connecticut that day, to help a friend move, in case he was hit with another debilitating attack.

But, "I didn't smoke marijuana that day," he said, "because I didn't suffer a relapse."

But he also told colleagues that he is not legally authorized to use marijuana, under the state's medical marijuana program because Rhode Island "is a small state," and despite promises of confidentiality he feared his personal medical information would somehow leak out of the state Department of Health.

In his speech, Watson also raised questions about how he was treated by the police in East Haven, Conn., after they learned he was a legislator in Rhode Island. He denied having trouble standing, speaking or following commands, as suggested by the police report.

"I deny that I failed any of the sobriety tests," said Watson, saying he wished there had been cameras there.

He also disputed the "caricature" of him that was depicted in the police report, and said he will challenge that in a legal forum.

But he said he was also aware he will be judged in the court of public opinion.

Watson gave his speech after meeting privately with his fellow House Republicans, who later nodded their heads in assent as he said they had given him their vote of confidence to remain as minority leader.
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