Legislation to treat marijuana like alcohol heard in House Judiciary
On February 27, The House Judiciary Committee took testimony on H 5274, the Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act. The bill, sponsored by Judiciary Chair Representative Edith Ajello (D – Providence), House Minority Leader Brian Newberry, and 17 of their House colleagues will replace Rhode Island’s marijuana prohibition with a system that regulates, controls, and taxes marijuana sales. If you’re from Rhode Island, please email your state legislators today and ask them to support this sensible proposal!
The committee 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. Next up is a yet to be scheduled hearing on Sen. Donna Nesselbush’s (D – Pawtucket) companion legislation – S 334 – in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
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, 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. We are grateful to the tireless legislative sponsors, Rep. Edwards and Sen. Miller. Many thanks to Wally Gernt and Chris Reilly at the Bradford Group, who have successfully lobbied on behalf of MPP to reform Rhode Island’s marijuana laws since 2004. Brown University’s Dr. David Lewis, Dr. Glenn Loury, Brad Brockmann, and Dr. Nick Zaller lent their high-profile support, as did Law Enforcement Against Prohibition speakers Jack Cole and Beth Comery. Jared Moffat and other volunteers from Brown and University of Rhode Island’s SSDP chapters, Becky Mer and Nick Horton from OpenDoors, Steve Brown from the Rhode Island ACLU, and Catharine Leach — all of these individuals and groups were crucial in speaking out and corralling supportive individuals to contact their legislators.
In May, 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! MPP worked with legislative champions – Sen. Rhoda Perry and Rep. Scott Slater – and the governor’s office on mutually agreeable language. The amended program caps the amount of usable medical marijuana the centers may possess at any given time to 1,500 ounces. Additionally, the centers are only allowed to cultivate 150 plants, no more than 99 of which can be mature at any time. The revised law will also allow patients and caregivers to sell any excess medical marijuana they have directly to the compassion centers. The first compassion center should open by early spring!
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