General Assembly adjourns after considering the Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act
The 2013 legislative session has adjourned in Providence without lawmakers voting on a bill to end marijuana prohibition in the Ocean State. Hearings were held in both the House and Senate Judiciary Committees on S 334 and H 5274, the Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act. The bills were sponsored in the House by Judiciary Chair Representative Edith Ajello, House Minority Leader Brian Newberry, and 17 of their House colleagues and in the Senate by Senators Donna Nesselbush, Joshua Miller, and Frank Lombardo. If passed, the bills would have legalized marijuana for adults 21 and older and regulated and taxed the product more strictly than alcohol. Although the session has adjourned, if you’re from Rhode Island, you should still email your state legislators today and ask them to support these sensible proposals as we fully expect the measure to be reintroduced in 2014!
Although no votes were taken, progress was certainly made. 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. MPP’s Bob Capecchi 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.
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. 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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