Rhode Island
Last Update: July 14, 2014

R.I. Senate Judiciary Committee considers regulating marijuana like alcohol

In the early morning hours on Saturday, June 21, the Rhode Island Legislature adjourned the 2014 session. Unfortunately, it did so without taking a vote on legislation that would have legalized, regulated, and taxed marijuana similarly to alcohol. However, MPP and our allies at Regulate Rhode Island are committed to ending the failed policy of marijuana prohibition in the Ocean State. If you are a resident of the Ocean State, please email your state representative and senator today and ask them to support this sensible proposal next year.

The Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act proposed changing Rhode Island’s law in a manner similar to what voters enacted in both Colorado and Washington. The proposal would have allowed individuals 21 and older to possess and cultivate limited amounts of cannabis. It would also have directed the Department of Revenue to license and regulate marijuana producers and 10 retail marijuana stores. This sensible approach to marijuana is already creating hundreds of jobs and generating millions of dollars of new revenue for Colorado. A report issued by OpenDoors estimates that the proposed Rhode Island model would generate between $21.5 and $82 million a year in much needed new tax revenue.

Many thanks to everyone who helped build support and make the case for this including, but not limited to, Dr. David Lewis, Beth Comery from LEAP, the RI ACLU, Jim Vincent from the NAACP, Prof. Andy Horwitz from Roger Williams University School of Law, Rebecca McGoldrick from Protect Families First, and our friends at Regulate Rhode Island

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2012 proves to be big year for marijuana policy reform in Providence

In 2012, MPP — along with our local allies — helped usher through much needed marijuana policy reform in Rhode Island. The legislature and Gov. Lincoln Chafee removed the threat of jail time for simple possession of marijuana and revised the state’s medical cannabis law to ensure full implementation of the medical marijuana dispensary program.

In June 2012, Gov. Chafee signed legislation to replace the criminal penalties for adults’ possession of up to an ounce of marijuana with a civil violation of $150 for most violations! S2253/H7092 was sponsored by Sen. Josh Miller and Rep. John Edwards and went into effect on April 1, 2013. MPP worked with an outstanding group of advocates in Providence, and we are grateful to everyone who made the victory possible. Among the many positive outcomes, this victory will help ease the effects of disturbing racial disparities in marijuana-related policing. According to the ACLU, in 2010, African Americans in Rhode Island were 2.6 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than their white neighbors.  

In May 2012, a full year after halting implementation of the compassion center program citing fears of federal interference, Rhode Island Gov. Chafee signed legislation that was written to alleviate his concerns and to finally get the compassion centers open. The revised law allows patients and caregivers to sell any excess medical marijuana they have directly to the compassion centers. Two compassion centers opened in spring of 2013.

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