Medical Marijuana

TOMORROW (Wed. 7/17): Action meeting to support Rhode Island’s medical marijuana program

If you're worried that the needs and interests of medical cannabis patients are being ignored in Rhode Island, I hope you'll join Ellen Lenox Smith from RIPAC and me tomorrow (July 17) at 6:30 p.m. in the Bell Street Chapel (5 Bell St., Providence) to discuss priorities and ways patients and allies can effectively advocate for the program. You can visit the Facebook event page here.

As the state makes significant changes to the medical marijuana program, patients do not have a seat at the table, and political leaders are treating the medical marijuana program as a source of tax revenue. On top of that, we see attempts nearly every year to roll back home cultivation rights, which have been a vital safety net and crucial source of medicine for many patients since the program started.

We are calling on all supporters of the medical cannabis program to come together and discuss ways to strengthen patients' influence over policies that deeply affect them. We believe it's possible to create a more organized and unified voice to fight for the program.

Hope to see you tomorrow evening.

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Medical Marijuana

Rhode Island General Assembly passes state budget with medical marijuana changes

Late yesterday, the Rhode Island Senate adopted the House's budget bill, sending the legislation to Gov. Raimondo for her approval. Although the governor's January budget proposal included a plan to legalize marijuana for adults, the state legislature removed it and instead increased the number of licenses for medical marijuana compassion centers from three to nine. The budget also raises the annual licensing fees for these businesses to $500,000 — by far the highest in the nation.

Though the outcome is not what we hoped for, we were successful in avoiding an even worse result. After MPP and our allies called legislators' attention to it, the House amended out a budget provision that would have allowed the Department of Business Regulation to establish "criteria for eligibility or a demonstration of need" for patients and caregivers who wish to grow medical marijuana. Given the department's stated opposition to home cultivation, many patients could have lost their ability to produce their own medicine had this provision not been removed.

Looking ahead, advocates for sensible marijuana policy reform in Rhode Island are regrouping and planning for next year. With the legislative session winding down and no elections coming up, the next six months are an excellent time to contact your state senator and representative and talk with them about the need for sensible cannabis policy reform.

Though it is disappointing when progress does not come quickly, our movement is winning, and our numbers are growing. We must continue speaking out and advocating for reform. I appreciate you for sticking with us and continuing this fight.

Stay tuned for more updates soon.

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Medical Marijuana

Rhode Island: House budget would reduce home grow for patients and raise costs

If you live in Rhode Island, contact your state representative and ask them to oppose these provisions in the budget.

This Friday, the Rhode Island House will debate H 5151 Sub A, the budget bill for the coming fiscal year. As written, Article 15 of this legislation would make two significant changes to undermine the state's medical marijuana program.

First, the House budget would require all patients who wish to grow for themselves to register as their own caregiver. Then, it empowers the Department of Business Regulation to establish criteria for caregivers, which may include "eligibility" and "a demonstration of need." Depending on how the department uses this authority, it could effectively eliminate home cultivation for all but a few patients.

Second, while the current budget proposal would increase the number of compassion centers from three to nine, it also raises the annual licensing fee for these facilities to $500,000 a year, which is 10-100 times more than what most other states require for medical marijuana business licenses. This fee will ensure that only people with deep pockets can enter the market, and the increased costs will be passed down to patients in the form of increased prices.

Please take action right now and send an email to your state representative asking them to oppose these changes to the medical marijuana program.

Limiting patients' ability to grow their own medicine while simultaneously increasing costs for patients at the compassion centers is a cruel and unnecessary way to balance the budget. Enough is enough.

Thank you for taking action!

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Tax and Regulate

TOMORROW (Wed. 5/29): Rhode Island’s House Finance Committee to hear cannabis equity bills

We have known for years that marijuana prohibition laws disproportionately harm communities of color. A 2013 ACLU report analyzing FBI arrest data found that black Rhode Islanders were nearly three times more likely to be arrested than whites for marijuana possession from 2001 to 2010.

State Representatives Anastasia Williams and Marcia Ranglin-Vassell have introduced legislation (H 5795, H 6069, H 6070, and H 6073) to address the disparate impacts of marijuana prohibition, and tomorrow afternoon, the House Finance Committee will hold a hearing to discuss their proposals. Collectively, the bills would direct regulators to study the disproportionate harms of marijuana arrests, establish programs to assist business applicants who have been affected, create an economic opportunity fund for reinvestment in communities most harmed by prohibition, and require marijuana business licenses to be distributed more equitably.

You can find details about the hearing and links to each of the bills here. If you are able to attend, please consider testifying in support of cannabis equity in front of the committee. The committee will meet at roughly 4:30 p.m. tomorrow (Wednesday, May 29) in Room 35 of the State House (82 Smith Street, Providence).

Thank you.

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Tax and Regulate

This afternoon: Join us in supporting cannabis policy reform at the Rhode Island State House

Please join me and other members of the Regulate Rhode Island Coalition today at 3 p.m. in the State House (82 Smith Street, Providence) as we urge legislators to enact sensible and just cannabis laws. Prior to the floor session (which usually begins a little after 4 p.m.) is a great time to have one-on-one conversations with lawmakers, and we will be talking with them about the importance of legislating responsibly and legalizing marijuana the right way.

If you are unable to make it, you can still help move sensible policy reform forward: Send a message to your state representative and senator using our email action tool.

Parking is available across the street from the capitol building at the Department of Health and in the Providence Place Mall garage. After you enter the State House and proceed through the metal detector, you will find a Regulate Rhode Island volunteer coordinator immediately to your left next to the Civil War-era cannon display. The coordinator will provide you copies of our talking points document, which you can view here.

We need all of you to be part of this effort to end prohibition, protect cannabis patients, and promote social equity for victims of the war on marijuana. Cannabis laws won’t change themselves. Let’s continue to raise our voices and call for action.

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Tax and Regulate

Rhode Island: Join us on Thursday for a lobby day at the State House!

With just over a month remaining in this year’s legislative session, supporters of sensible and just cannabis policies must make their voices heard. Article 20 of Gov. Raimondo’s proposed budget is still in play, but the legislation needs important amendments around home cultivation, social equity, and other important issues.

We need your help to urge our lawmakers to end prohibition, protect patients, and legalize with equity. Please join us in calling for sensible cannabis policy reform:

When: Thursday, May 23 at 3:00 p.m.

Where: The Rhode Island State House (82 Smith Street, Providence)

Parking is available across the street from the capitol building at the Department of Health and in the Providence Place Mall garage. After you enter the State House and proceed through the metal detector, you will find a Regulate Rhode Island volunteer coordinator immediately to your left next to the Civil War-era cannon display. The coordinator will provide you copies of our talking points document, which you can view here.

Please RSVP and help us spread the word by sharing our Facebook event.

For far too long, legislative leaders have kicked the can down the road on marijuana policy reform. The best way to show our lawmakers the importance of this issue is to show up and speak with them directly.

See you there!

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Tax and Regulate

We’re close, Rhode Island: Contact your legislators to help legalize marijuana!

With just two months remaining in this year’s Rhode Island legislative session, marijuana legalization is still very much on the table. If enough supporters of sensible marijuana policy reform take action, Rhode Island could become the first state in the country to to legalize and regulate marijuana sales through the state legislature!

The General Assembly needs to hear from you:

You can also help raise awareness about the issue by publishing a letter to the editor. Go here to use our action tool to quickly and easily submit a letter to your local newspaper!

Conversations about the fate of legalization — and the details of the legislation — are happening in the State House. Now is a critical time to vocalize our support for legalization and advocate for a law that addresses the historical harms of the war on marijuana.

We could end marijuana prohibition in Rhode Island by July if enough of us do our part and respectfully communicate our views to lawmakers. Please don’t sit on the sidelines. Take action and forward this message to others so they can help, too!

Thank you.

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Tax and Regulate

Rhode Island: Your legislators need to hear from you about marijuana legalization

If you live in Rhode Island, click here to send a message to your state senator and representative.

We’re just over halfway through this year’s legislative session, and the fate of legalization remains uncertain. A clear majority of Rhode Islanders are ready to end the failed policy of prohibition, but lawmakers may not act unless they hear from their constituents. Help us move the issue forward and contact your state legislators.

Rhode Island will only dig itself into a deeper hole if the General Assembly fails to pass a legalization law this year. Multiple states around us are moving forward with marijuana policy reform legislation, and if Rhode Island becomes an island of prohibition, the state will lose out on an opportunity to gain a foothold in the fastest growing economic sector in the country.

Gov. Raimondo’s proposal to legalize and regulate marijuana could be improved in several ways, and as we advocate for passage of a legalization law this year, we must also urge the General Assembly to adopt amendments around medical marijuana patient access, competition and fairness within the market, and provisions to address the historical injustices of marijuana prohibition.

We need supporters of sensible marijuana policy to take action. Without a broad push for legalization, Rhode Island will continue spinning its wheels while Massachusetts, Connecticut, and other New England states move forward. We need progress this year, and you can help make it happen by sending a message to your state legislators right now.

Thank you.

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Tax and Regulate

Rhode Island lawmakers held initial hearings on proposal to legalize marijuana last week

If you live in Rhode Island, take action and contact your state legislators.

Legislative discussions on Gov. Raimondo's proposal to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana for adult use were front and center last week at the State House. On Tuesday, the Senate Finance and Judiciary Committees held a joint hearing on Article 20 of the governor's budget bill, which includes provisions to establish a regulatory system for adult-use marijuana sales. The House Finance Committee held its own hearing on the same legislation on Wednesday.

Email your state legislators and urge them to make marijuana legalization a top priority this year.

The original language of the proposal has been amended. To read an updated summary of Article 20, click here. Leaders of Regulate Rhode Island and the Marijuana Policy Project testified in support of the governor's plan, while highlighting serious concerns about some of its provisions. Overall, our priorities in advocating for amendments are:

  • Ensuring the medical and adult-use markets are open, fair, and competitive;
  • Protecting safe and affordable access for medical marijuana patients;
  • Allowing adults to cultivate a limited number of marijuana plants in their homes; and
  • Adding provisions to promote social equity, encourage diversity in the marketplace, and address the historical injustices of marijuana prohibition.

Our aim is to see Rhode Island pass the best legalization law possible this year. To do that, we're going to need your help, so please take action and send a message to your state legislators.

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Tax and Regulate

R.I.: Governor Raimondo backs legalizing marijuana

On Sunday, Gov. Raimondo announced that she will be including a plan to legalize and regulate marijuana for adult use in her upcoming budget. This endorsement represents an exciting breakthrough in our years-long effort to end marijuana prohibition in Rhode Island.

Detailed legislation will be available soon. For now, what we know is that the governor aims to establish the most tightly regulated legalization program in the country. Check out this article to read more about the plan.

While we may not agree with all aspects of the proposal – including the ban on home cultivation – we commend the governor for spearheading this initiative. In the coming months, we expect a robust discussion within the General Assembly, and there may be opportunities to amend the legislation.

One thing is for sure: Legalization will finally have the hearing it deserves this year. It's going to be an interesting session, so be sure to stay tuned for more updates on how you can help ensure that legalization crosses the finish line this year.

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