General Assembly discusses the Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act
On May 28, 2013, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony on S 334, the Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act. The bill, sponsored by Senators Donna Nesselbush, Joshua Miller, and Frank Lombardo, would replace Rhode Island’s prohibition on marijuana with a system that regulates, controls, and taxes marijuana sales. The House Judiciary Committee previously held a hearing on the House companion bill, H 5274, sponsored by Judiciary Chair Representative Edith Ajello, House Minority Leader Brian Newberry, and 17 of their House colleagues. If you’re from Rhode Island, please email your state legislators today and ask them to support these sensible proposals!
Both committees heard from many supporters of common sense marijuana policy reform. Members of law enforcement testified that marijuana prohibition takes their focus off serious crime and only enriches and empowers criminals. Concerned parents and grandparents testified that regulation — not prohibition — is the best approach to promote public health. I was fortunate enough to join them all and simply pointed out the absurdity of prohibiting an in-demand product while taxing and regulating the far more dangerous drug — alcohol.
While the General Assembly is not expected to pass the Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act this session, we are hopeful that the sensible lawmakers in Rhode Island will make their state one of the first to replace the failed and wasteful policy of marijuana prohibition with sensible regulations.
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 marijuana 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.
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 allows patients and caregivers to sell any excess medical marijuana they have directly to the compassion centers. The first compassion center opened in April.
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