Rhode Island Legislator Facing Marijuana Possession Charges

Apr 27, 2011 , , , , ,

On Friday, April 22, police at a checkpoint in Connecticut stopped Rhode Island House Minority Leader Robert Watson. Representative Watson cooperated with the police, agreeing to a Breathalyzer that resulted in a 0.05 reading (0.08 is legally impaired). During the stop, police also uncovered a small amount of marijuana and a pipe. Rep. Watson has since stated that he uses marijuana for medical purposes, but that he decided not to become a registered medical marijuana patient in Rhode Island out of confidentiality fears.

This unfortunate situation lends itself to serious contemplation of our current draconian marijuana laws. In Connecticut, as well as in Rhode Island, the possession of even a small amount of marijuana is considered a crime. Criminal convictions haunt individuals as a mark on their records, even if jail time is avoided. Many people will have a difficult time obtaining gainful employment, college admission or loans, and housing because of their record. Are these drastic results really justified for something as simple as possessing a small amount of a substance proven safer than alcohol?

Legislators in both Rhode Island and Connecticut have the opportunity this year to end the heavy-handed practice of labeling anyone a criminal for possession of a small amount of marijuana. Both states have bills pending that would decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, replacing the current criminal penalties with a more rational civil fine.

Finally, I would like to commend the minority leader for his subsequent bravery and honesty in addressing his entire chamber about this issue. He explained that prescription medications have caused severe side effects, and that marijuana alleviated bouts of pancreatitis, which put him into a coma for five days last November. I am glad he has found a medicine that helps alleviate his pain. Protecting patients, such as Rep. Watson, is why we worked so hard to pass Rhode Island’s medical marijuana law. Rhode Island’s law, for which Rep. Watson voted, includes protection from conviction for unregistered patients who have doctors’ recommendations, as well as protection from arrest for those who register.

16 responses to “Rhode Island Legislator Facing Marijuana Possession Charges”

  1. This action of the legislator points to the stigma normally associated with marijuana users. For some reason the propaganda displayed back at the beginning of prohibition, although laughably false, still haunts us today.

    Change is happening, its just happening slowly. Once some of our more elderly and/or un-educated leaders vacate office you will start to see the paradigm shift towards logical and truthful policy and talk.

    Too bad politics at its heart is just a money game. “Everything for a buck” is what has brought us to this point in history/society/ecology. Good luck to you at MPP!

  2. You know the really funny thing about this story? I’m surprised you guys didn’t mention this.


    (quoted segment)”Of course, just this February the prohibitionist dissed Rhode Island’s legislature for its liberality. Watson told a Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce group the legislature’s priorities are correct if:

    “you’re a Guatemalan gay man who likes to gamble and smokes marijuana.”(/quoted segment)

    Is there a reason you’re keeping this from the story?

  3. I understand more than most the travisty of being cought up in the war aginst drugs( seeing as I am a convicted felon for such activity),but i have no remorse for this rep whom is reported to be outspoken aginst canni. use. I hope the courts serve him the same punishments as anyone ealse would get. Mabye then the hypocrites backing this war will come to terms with the reality of there actions. I dont think its right for a supposed rep of the pepole to be vocaly aginst somthing untill they get busted for it!

  4. To clarify, Rep. Watson did not come out against marijuana decriminalization. As unfortunate as his comments were, they simply reflected his belief that the legislature should have been focusing on other issues. In fact, Rep. Watson was a supporter of medical marijuana in the past. Although it is easy to do, and he could have chosen his words more carefully, it is important to separate his feelings on legislative priorities versus the merits of certain proposals. Rep. Watson has never said he is opposed to marijuana decriminalization.

  5. Robert, thank you for your reply.

    However, you have to admit that there’s some hypocrisy in downplaying what he said. I’m in full support of what you guys are trying to accomplish, believe me. I think that marijuana should be legalized and regulated.

    Here’s another, more detailed link:


    But this man is probably a lot more concerned about marijuana being a policy we should focus on when it impacts him directly. It’s simply outrageous to not mention at all that he said those things. We have to react to those statements. I understand that he is a powerful source of pro-marijuana legislature (being a Republican lawmaker opposed to current drug policies is a huge asset).

    But he needs to apologize for his statement.

    “He later said he was using humor to express concern that some issues were dominating the legislative agenda at the expense of economic issues.”

    That is not an apology. In fact, his very statement is outright contradictory as the legalization of marijuana has MUCH to do with economic policies.

    So while I’m glad that this turned out the way it did, I can’t be permitted to be satisfied until this lawmaker truly shows he’s committed to this.

  6. I feel that the people of Rhode Island will finally have a voice against cannabis reform or this asshole will be voted out next election. Robert Watson now can actually grow a pair and say what a total waste of time and money and most importantly, what a waste of lives that cannabis prohibition is. We can only wait and see for ourselves what actions Mr. watson takes.

  7. No one has shed any light as to what condition the rep has that he qualifies for a med recomondation. If i was the one getting poped you better bet theyd check, and bear nailed it. See as how the cann. idustry was just proclamed to be a 1.3 billon dollar a year industry how can you even think it is not worth taking stage on the legilative agenda( and thats just the med industry,god only knows how much it would be with total controll and regs).And then comes hemp prod.

  8. Thanks, John. I support Gary Johnson too and not just for his marijuana reform… the guy is rational, reasonable and smart. I would talk about his voucher program but that is in a different vein than the topic of drug policy reform.

    By the way, my intention is not to cause strife. And I know you guys aren’t working to satisfy my feelings over this. But despite what this guy has done in our favor, we cannot cease in our battle by glossing over what else he’s done against us and repairing the damage caused by that.

    Normally I’m not a huge fan of Bill Maher because I feel like he invites only one dissenter and three proponents to his agenda on his show. However, he makes a brilliant point at an event in 2002 at a NORML conference in San Francisco:

    (yes, here comes another link)


    At around the 5:30 mark, he starts talking about this particular thing.

    (quoted speech)We have been reluctant because are ‘good people…’ open-minded, tolerant. You know, we’re like the Indians: ‘We do not want to use white man’s evil ways.’ But we’re going to have to use the white man’s evil ways. […](/quoted speech)

    He gives some very awesome advice about how we should go about driving this issue (with a few added Bush jokes because, remember, it’s 2002). Then he says this:

    (quoted speech)We should be as OFFENDED as everyone else is in America for their [bs] causes. You know, when you hear someone support the drug war, BE OFFENDED. You know, when they make a bad ‘pot’ joke, that offends US. How about US having a little zero-tolerance? Zero-tolerance for [bs]. How about that?(/quoted speech)

    Exactly. We should be offended. And yet here’s an example where we are willing to forget what he said because he’s supporting us? Just forgive and move on? I understand that motivation but we CANNOT AFFORD to do this. We can’t. We cannot just let this go.

    And now this man is in a position where he can be pushed toward doing so. We can’t allow this to slip through our fingers.

  9. Let’s all tell it like it is; IF YOU SMOKE IT YOU LIKE IT OR NOT PERIOD! It’s true I’ve found people who just like it, and at 75 I’ve known alot of people who have tried it. I, in my old age, haven’t smoked it in a lone time, but I use to drive across the country with two or three very big jags of it. I would smoke now, but I don’t know what about my Afib situation. So keep takling about it so I can find out what it will do to my situation
    with my wife yelling at me.

  10. The issues “Bear” raises are pertinent.

    “Elementary,” actually.

    MPP didn’t mention that Watson is a Republican, a factor that even the more politically aware from other states might not have guessed.

    When Watson criticized the Democrats in February he not only satirically said they seemed to be representing, more than the interests of the average Rhode Islander, rather (an imaginary) stereotype, a gay, Guatemalan, marijuana smoker.

    Strangely enough, only Guatemalans really seem to have complained in concert, though they have less reason to fear being “outed.” Maybe Watson has been okay on LGBT issues too.

    MPP certainly didn’t want to piss off one of their few allies on that side of the aisle.

    On the other hand, Gary Johnson is a bit of a Koch-type libertarian. He took bundles of money from the for-profit prison industry and half their income is gleaned on the backs of incarcerated drug users. He installed a Wackenhut (now GEO Group) warden as his director of corrections who took very, very good care of the industry. When Bill Richardson won the governorship of New Mexico, the money flowed in his direction as well, and the kid gloves treatment continued, proving that corruption is not solely the province of one party.

  11. This hypocritical psychopath should get life in prison.

    Let him die in prison of his illness, like so many others before him.

  12. This is insane that marijuana is such a big issue. I am so sick of reading about people being locked up and lives ruined for such a “petty” thing……but it is ok to take a drug from a company that has the potential to kill you..watch the TV commercials……

  13. Rep. Watson is a typical “family values” politician who lies about what he personally does until he gets caught. He needs to grow up and start defending our civil liberties and realize that no one wants their life ruined over marijuana.

  14. So, does this mean that we can count on his pro-cannabis vote in the future. If not, he’s a hypocrite.

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