PROVIDENCE -- Giving proof to Yogi Berra's adage that "it ain't over 'til it's over," the 2005 House of Representatives will meet one last time at the start of the new year to complete the override of Gov. Donald Carcieri's veto of a medical marijuana bill. House Speaker William Murphy will gavel the 2005 session to order one last time at 2 p.m. next Tuesday for the override and formal adjournment of the session, which closes out all business from last year. Then the 2006 session will convene at 4 p.m.
When the House and Senate broke for the summer, each chamber technically "recessed" rather than "adjourning," which would have foreclosed coming back for other business.
The Senate will gather at 4 p.m. next Tuesday and its first order of business will be adjouring the 2005 session.
"The Speaker told me we will come in for the override" of the marijuana legislation, Providence Rep. Thomas Slater said Thursday, adding that House members are being informed by mail of the early override session.
Murphy spokesman Larry Berman would not confirm or deny Slater's statements.
There are other gubernatorial vetoes outstanding -- the two most prominent being a bill to increase the state minimum wage and another to allow child care providers to unionize to bargain collectively without becoming state employees -- but The Times has learned that the medical marijuana veto will be the only one taken up.
Because the Senate already voted to override the veto of the medical marijuana bill before the summer recess, if the House musters the support of three-fifths of the members present and voting -- 45 if all 75 members show up -- the bill automatically becomes law. The final version of the bill passed the House in June on a 52-10 vote.
"I am 90 percent sure we have the votes to override," Slater said, "you're never 100 percent positive."
The measure eliminates penalties, fines and forfeiture connected with marijuana posession of up to 2.5 ounces for a patient (recommended by a doctor and registered with the Department of Health) with a "debilitating medical condition" and two principal caregivers. The law makes no provision for a legal way to obtain the drug.
Slater said several of the patients who testified on behalf of the bill during committee hearings earlier this year will be invited to watch the override and will hold a press conference afterward.
The bill calls for the Department of Health to promulgate rules and regulations within 90 days of the effective date of the legislation. The law is set to expire June 30, 2007, unless it is renewed by the General Assembly before that time.
"Governor Carcieri continues to share the Rhode Island law enforcement community's concern about this legislation," said Carcieri spokesman Jeff Neal. "He continues to oppose the bill for all the reasons mentioned in his veto message."
In that message, Carcieri said, "The amount of marijuana this bill authorizes is staggering. This bill will make marijuana more available to children in Rhode Island."