Regulate Rhode Island Will Not Participate in Flawed Legalization Study Commission


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Later today, the Rhode Island House is scheduled to vote on a flawed piece of legislation that would establish a 22-person “study commission” on marijuana legalization. According to the bill, a handful of the designated members in the study commission would be representatives of organizations that are part of our Regulate Rhode Island coalition.

Today, the coalition announced that we would not participate as members of this flawed study commission if it is established.

We have talked with legislators throughout the session, and they are interested in practical questions about how to establish a well-regulated marijuana market. We do not believe the proposed study commission can offer recommendations for how to legalize and regulate marijuana if the commission does not acknowledge that marijuana should be legalized and regulated at the outset.

Regulate Rhode Island Director Jared Moffat released the following statement in a press release:

“The proposed study commission is not a good faith effort to analyze the issue, it is a flawed delay tactic. It would engage in the same legalization debate that has already taken place during the legislative process. It is not intended to find a solution to Rhode Island’s marijuana prohibition problem; it is intended to avoid one. The only people who benefit from delaying legalization — which is what this study commission would do — are the illegal dealers who are currently profiting from selling marijuana.

“Regulate Rhode Island’s members will not participate in the study commission because we are not interested in helping lawmakers once again avoid a vote on legalization. Sen. Miller and Rep. Slater have proposed a very reasonable compromise that deserves an up-or-down vote in the House and Senate this year. Rhode Islanders deserve to know where their elected officials stand on this issue. We call on House Speaker Mattiello and Senate President Ruggerio to stop stalling and allow our legislators to vote on legalization.”

We remain committed to our demand that the General Assembly hold a vote on a real legalization bill this year. If you are a Rhode Island resident, please call your legislators, and tell them to vote against the flawed study commission legislation and demand a vote on our simple and reasonable compromise proposal.

Our compromise would make up to an ounce of marijuana legal for adults ages 21 and older starting July 2018, when stores would open in Massachusetts. It would also create a small advisory board to study how Rhode Island could regulate and tax marijuana in the future.

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Rhode Island Poll Shows Rising Support for Making Marijuana Legal for Adults


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A new poll provides further evidence that an overwhelming majority of Rhode Island voters stand with us in supporting regulating marijuana like alcohol. The survey found that 3 out of 5 Rhode Islanders favor making marijuana legal for adults.

It’s encouraging that support continues to steadily rise (in 2015, support was at 57%), but it’s critical that we keep pushing. The Legislature won’t act unless their constituents contact them. If you are a Rhode Island resident, please tell your lawmakers to support ending marijuana prohibition.

You can see the full poll results here.

Rhode Island Sen. Joshua Miller and Rep. Scott Slater recently introduced the Cannabis Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act, which would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow one mature marijuana plant in an enclosed, locked space. It would establish the Office of Cannabis Coordination within the executive branch, which would be charged with coordinating among state agencies to establish a tightly regulated system of licensed marijuana retail stores, cultivation facilities, processing facilities, and testing facilities. The legislation would also create a 23% excise tax on retail marijuana sales in addition to the standard 7% sales tax.

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State Legislatures Back in Session and Tackling Marijuana Policy


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Around the country, state lawmakers are gearing up for the new legislative sessions, and some are already making marijuana policy reform a top priority.

In Wisconsin, Rep. Melissa Sargent plans to reintroduce legislation that would end Wisconsin’s criminalization of adult marijuana consumers in exchange for taxing and regulating it like alcohol. Her proposal would also permit seriously ill Wisconsinites — both adults and minors — to access medical marijuana.

 

As Pennsylvania works to implement its new medical marijuana program, lawmakers plan to reintroduce legislation that would stop jailing marijuana consumers and instead impose a civil fine. Currently, an individual arrested for possessing up to an ounce of marijuana can still be sentenced to as much as 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. Last year, Rep. Ed Gainey introduced HB 2706, a bill that would decriminalize the possession of marijuana. He is expected to introduce similar legislation this year.

In Rhode Island, advocates will once again be pushing legislators to end marijuana prohibition after voters in neighboring Massachusetts passed an initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol in November.

Last month, Tennessee Rep. Jeremy Faison (R) and Sen. Steve Dickerson (R) announced that they are introducing a medical marijuana bill to bring meaningful access to many patients in Tennessee and establish 150 dispensaries throughout the state.

Texas Senator José Menéndez (D-San Antonio) pre-filed SB 269, a comprehensive medical cannabis bill, in early December. If passed, this legislation will bring safe and legal access to Texas patients with debilitating medical conditions like cancer, PTSD, chronic pain, and Crohn’s disease, among others. Advocates expect another bill that would remove criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana to be introduced soon.

The year is still early, and there will likely be many more marijuana policy reform bills introduced in the coming weeks. If you would like to find out what is happening in your state, please click here. MPP will continue to follow marijuana-related legislation in all 50 states and DC as it develops.

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Rhode Island Primary Voter Guide


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Next week on Tuesday, September 13, Rhode Island will hold its primary election across the state. You can see your sample ballot and look up your polling location by visiting the Secretary of State’s website

Regulate Rhode Islandrri recently partnered with Motif Magazine to conduct a marijuana policy survey of candidates running for a seat in the General Assembly. The candidates were then assigned a letter grade based on their responses and — in the case of incumbents — their record on marijuana policy bills.  

You can look up your district and see the results for your local candidates who responded here. The results are also included in the most recent print edition of Motif Magazine. 

It is crucial that supporters of sensible marijuana policy reform remain engaged in local politics. That is why it is important to not only vote, but also to contact your elected officials and educate them on the many reasons to support regulating and taxing marijuana for adult use. 

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Rhode Island Legislative Session Closes Without Legalization Vote


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The Rhode Island legislative session came to close early on Saturday morning.  Unfortunately, despite overwhelming public support for reform, leaders of the House and Senate did not allow legislators to vote on the Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act this year.riseal

Other notable outcomes of the 2016 legislative session include:

— Passage of Article 14 in the state budget, which makes significant changes to the medical marijuana program. You can find a summary of the new regulations here.

— Passage of legislation to add post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana.

— Passage of legislation to regulate hemp cultivation.

We will continue our efforts to build support for ending the failed policy of marijuana prohibition in the summer and fall, with plans to work with lawmakers to re-introduce legislation to legalize and regulate marijuana in the 2017 legislative session.

In the meantime, we encourage supporters of sensible marijuana policy reform to become engaged in local legislative races and make marijuana policy reform a salient electoral issue. You can find information about local races in your district by visiting the Rhode Island Secretary of State’s website.

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Connecticut Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Regulate Marijuana for Adults


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Last week, 10 Connecticut state representatives introduced HB 5236, legislation that would legalize the sale and use of marijuana for adults.Seal-of-Connecticut While it is unlikely HB 5236 will pass during this year’s short session, garnering co-sponsors and holding a hearing this year will help build the foundation for passage down the road.

If you are a Connecticut resident and support ending marijuana prohibition in your state, please contact your representative and ask him or her to support HB 5236.

In addition to the four states and Washington D.C. that have already legalized adult use, several of Connecticut’s neighbor states are currently considering legalization including Massachusetts, Vermont, and Rhode Island.

Legalizing marijuana for adults makes the illicit marijuana trade obsolete and would create much-needed revenue to the state during a time of financial hardship. In 2015, Colorado’s system of marijuana regulation brought in over $135 million in revenue for the state.

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Rhode Island Legislators Recess, May Vote on Marijuana Regulation Bill If They Reconvene This Fall


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On Thursday night, the Rhode Island legislature was called into recess with many bills still awaiting final approval. There is talk from legislative leaders about calling the legislature back in September or October to address these important issues. Considering its overwhelming public support, we believe the Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act should be one of the proposals considered when lawmakers return to Providence. But we need you to make this happen.

If you are a Rhode Island resident, please email your lawmakers and ask them to consider the Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act if they reconvene this fall.

Colorado and Washington already treat marijuana like alcohol, and Alaska and Oregon are implementing similar programs. At least five states are considering ballot questions replacing prohibition with regulation in 2016, including neighboring Massachusetts. Rhode Island can and should be a regional leader by taking control of their marijuana market as soon as possible.

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Rhode Island Billboard Urges Lawmakers Considering New Stadium to Make Marijuana Legal


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Earlier this week, Regulate Rhode Island unveiled a billboard aimed at encouraging legislators to pass a bill that would regulate and tax marijuana in the state.

The “Field of Dreams”-themed ad features stadium lights shining on two young professionals standing among a small field of marijuana plants, and it reads, “If we build it, they will come… It’s time to establish a regulated marijuana market in Rhode Island.”

Legislators are currently considering S 510/H 5777, the “Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act,” which would end marijuana prohibition in Rhode Island and replace it with a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol. They are also considering using taxpayer funds to build a new stadium, also in the hopes of bringing jobs and other financial benefits to the area.

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Rhode Island Legislature Considering Regulating Marijuana Like Alcohol


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Earlier this month, a bill to regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol was introduced in the Rhode Island legislature.

The Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act, introduced by Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Cranston) and Rep. Scott Slater (D-Providence),  would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow one mature marijuana plant in an enclosed, locked space. It would create a tightly regulated system of licensed marijuana retail stores, cultivation facilities, and testing facilities and direct the Department of Business Regulation to create rules regulating security, labeling, and health and safety requirements. It would also establish wholesale excise taxes at the point of transfer from the cultivation facility to a retail store, as well as a special sales tax on retail sales to consumers.

Huffington Post reports:

 A 2014 poll found 52 percent in favor of changing marijuana laws, mirroring national trends. This is the fourth year that legislation to regulate and tax recreational marijuana has been introduced. It’s unclear whether state lawmakers will support the new measure.

Legalized marijuana would boost the state treasury by $58 million a year in taxes, the Marijuana Policy Project projected.

“We want Rhode Island to be a leader on the East CoastRegulate_RI_Release_Logo.png and become an early adopter in order to get a competitive edge in the regional market to maximize job creation, tax revenue, and business growth in our state,” Jared Moffat, director of the marijuana policy reform group Regulate Rhode Island, told The Huffington Post.

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MPP’s Rob Kampia Gives His Take on What’s Next for Marijuana Legalization


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Executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, Rob Kampia, discusses what’s next for the push to make marijuana legal in the United States:

The state that will most likely be next to legalize is Rhode Island, which would be the first to do so via state legislature. Also this spring, the District of Columbia is expected to enact a similar law through its city council.

There’s also a real opportunity to legalize marijuana through five more state legislatures between now and 2017 – Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, New Hampshire, and Vermont. There will also be serious legislative activity in other states, such as New York, but it is less clear when such legislation will pass.

In November 2016, at least five states are expected to vote on similar ballot initiatives – Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada – and one could potentially appear on the ballot in Missouri.

By the end of 2017, marijuana could be legalized in 15 states and D.C., which would comprise 26% of the nation’s population.

Read the rest of Kampia’s column here.

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