Tuesday, September 9, is Primary Election Day in Rhode Island. With an open race for the top slot in the state, all eyes are on the gubernatorial primary races. Next year, the legislature will continue discussing whether Rhode Island should replace marijuana prohibition with sensible regulations, so it is important to know how the candidates for governor view the issue.
Democratic primary gubernatorial candidates: When asked in March, all three major candidates — Gina Raimondo, Angel Taveras, and Clay Pell — indicated that they are monitoring the effects of regulation and taxation in Colorado and Washington. However, all indications are that Taveras is the least open to marijuana regulation — he stated that he is “not currently supportive of legalization.” This is not too surprising considering Taveras has received public support from prominent marijuana prohibitionist and former Congressman Patrick Kennedy.
Republican primary gubernatorial candidates:On the Republican side of the coin, Ken Block has said he will withhold judgment until he can “see the results in Colorado and Washington.” His opponent, Allan Fung, not only opposes “the legalization of marijuana for recreational use,” but also makes no mention of even being interested in results from Colorado and Washington.
Currently in Santa Fe, first-time offenders in possession of less than an ounce of marijuana are charged with a petty misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $50 to $100 and imprisonment of not more than 15 days. The proposal calls for possession to be treated as a civil infraction, requiring no jail time and punishable by a fine of no more than $25.
State and federal law would be unaffected by the change, if it were approved. Police officers would have discretion as to whether to charge violations under a city ordinance, handled in municipal court, or under state statute, adjudicated in magistrate court.
However, the petition called for possession of small amounts of marijuana and instruments used to ingest it to be considered “a lowest law enforcement priority.”
In Albuquerque, supporters were unable to get enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot, but the city council included a similar provision in a package of local legislative bills. The mayor has voiced his opposition and threatened a veto, but it is unclear if he has the legal authority to do so.
As we’ve reported previously, three cities in Maine could be voting this November on initiatives that would direct local police not to arrest adults age 21 and over for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Despite opposition from city government, law enforcement, and the Maine chapter of Project SAM, all three initiatives are gaining public support and making steady headway in the election process.
Earlier this month, activists in the town of Lewiston turned in more than enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. The city council is expected to place the petition on the ballot at their Sep. 2 meeting.
If all goes well, Maine will have four localities where marijuana is legal for adults after Nov. 2, putting the state on the right track for passing a comprehensive measure to regulate marijuana like alcohol in 2016.
Proponents of Measure 91, which would make marijuana legal for adults in Oregon and regulate cultivation and retail sales, are up in arms at the discovery that federal funds are being used to bring drug warrior Kevin Sabet and company to their state to fight against the initiative.
While being billed as nothing more than an educational tour, the two-day conference in Oregon will spend at least half that time focusing on marijuana and providing law enforcement and other prohibitionists with tools to use against the Measure 91 campaign. The tour is funded by the Office of National Drug Control Policy. According to the Willamette Week, the event will also be spearheaded by Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis, who says the “Oregon District Attorneys Association plans to invest in the No on 91 campaign…”
[Anthony] Johnson, the chief petitioner for Yes on 91, says the tour appears to skirt campaign finance law, if not outright break it.
“It’s a misuse of federal taxpayer dollars to campaign against a state ballot measure days before people start voting on it,” he tells WW. “Calling this an ‘education campaign’ is preposterous, and if it is legal, it shouldn’t be.”
MPP has long contended that public funds should never be used to campaign against legislation and ballot initiatives, including the use of on-duty law enforcement. Such behavior is a violation, in spirit if not in law, of the democratic process.