House committee debates legislation to treat marijuana like alcohol
On April 29, the Rhode Island House Judiciary Committee took testimony on H 5777, the Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act. The committee heard from a broad array of supporters including racial justice advocates, former law enforcement officials, clergy, public health researchers, medical doctors, economists, local business owners, and representatives of several organizations.
Introduced by Rep. Scott Slater and Sen. Josh Miller, H 5777 and its Senate companion, S 510, would allow individuals 21 and older to possess and cultivate limited amounts of cannabis. It would also direct the Department of Business Regulation to license and regulate marijuana producers and at least 10 retail marijuana stores. This sensible approach to marijuana is already creating thousands of jobs and generating tens of millions of dollars of new revenue for Colorado. A sample yearly marijuana tax revenue estimate prepared by MPP, and endorsed by University of Rhode Island economics professor John Burkett, estimates that Rhode Island can expect to raise roughly $58 million per 12-month cycle off the taxes proposed in this bill. For more information on the legislation, please see our summary of the bill.
Recent polling found 57% of Rhode Island voters support replacing marijuana prohibition with regulatoin. If you are part of this majority and live in Rhode Island, please let your representative know you support this sensible proposal and that you would like him or her to do so as well!
Many thanks to our fellow members of the Regulate Rhode Island coalition, including Dr. David Lewis, Beth Comery from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, the RI ACLU, the New England Area Conference of NAACP chapters, Prof. Andy Horwitz from Roger Williams University School of Law, the Rhode Island Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Rhode Island chapter of the Sierra Club, the Rhode Island National Organization for Women, the Univocal Legislative Minority Advisory Commission, and everyone else in Rhode Island fighting to end marijuana prohibition in a sensible way.
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Rhode Island’s current possession and medical marijuana laws
While marijuana is still illegal for adults in Rhode Island, the Ocean State is one of 19 across the country that have decided to no longer arrest or jail individuals for simple possession. In 2012, an MPP-led lobbying effort culminated in passage of a law that reduced the penalty for possessing up to an ounce of marijuana to a $150 civil fine. If the individual is under 18, their parent or legal guardian will be notified, and the minor will be required to complete a drug awareness and education program. A third possession offense within 18 months would result in criminal charges.
Rhode Island also has a compassionate medical marijuana program that has been bringing relief to many seriously ill residents for almost a decade. The law protects registered patients from arrest and prosecution for possessing, using, or cultivating a limited amount of marijuana if they have a doctor’s recommendation to do so. The law was amended in 2009 to allow for regulated compassion centers that can distribute medical marijuana to qualified patients. For more information on the medical marijuana program, which MPP played a leading role in enacting, please visit the Rhode Island Department of Health website.
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