Rhode Island: Dept. of Health approves medical marijuana for autism


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Great news! The Department of of Health has announced that Rhode Island families can now access medical marijuana to treat autism. The decision was issued this week after a petition was filed in April to add autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana.

The announcement imposes some stipulations for physicians interested in recommending medical marijuana for patients with ASD, including that they first try FDA-approved medications and CBD products. The statement can be read in full here.

The Health Department held a public hearing on ASD and medical marijuana in August. At the hearing, Nicole Cervantes, a mother of a son with ASD, testified that CBD had significantly improved her child’s condition. “He has been able to focus more,” she said. “He no longer bangs his head.”

In recent years, families across the country have spoken out about how medical marijuana has helped minimize the worst symptoms of ASD. Rhode Island now joins seven other states that make some allowance for medical marijuana in the treatment of autism.

This is a great step forward for Rhode Island’s medical marijuana program. Let’s keep working to make further improvements to the state’s marijuana policies.

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Rhode Island legislative session ends…and the election season begins


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The 2018 Rhode Island legislative session recently came to a disappointing close. By extending its unproductive marijuana study commission into next year and failing to expand the number of medical marijuana compassion centers, the General Assembly has once again ignored the overwhelming majority of Rhode Islanders who support sensible marijuana policy reform.

If you are a Rhode Island resident…

The best way to make your voice heard now is to become active in local elections. When candidates hear from voters about an issue on the campaign trail, they’re far more likely to take action when elected.

If you see a campaign event happening in your district, attend and ask candidates if they will push for legislation to legalize marijuana. Make sure they know that your support for them depends, in part, on their support for ending the senseless policy of marijuana prohibition.

During the 2019 legislative session, MPP plans to launch a robust legalization effort in Rhode Island. Getting involved in local elections is the most effective way for you to help us lay the groundwork for victory next year.

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Rhode Island Legalization Bill Introduced


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Sen. Joshua Miller (D – Cranston) is once again submitting a bill to legalize and regulate marijuana in Rhode Island. As marijuana businesses are poised to open their doors in Massachusetts this summer, Sen. Miller hopes his colleagues will understand the wisdom in acting now.

“Legal marijuana sales will be available to Rhode Islanders as soon as Massachusetts retailers start offering it in July,” Sen. Miller said. “But Massachusetts will keep the revenue from the purchases when Rhode Islanders cross the border to get it.”

This legislation would make it legal for adults 21 and older to grow and possess limited amounts of marijuana. It would also set up a system for the Department of Business Regulation to oversee the licensing and operation of legal marijuana businesses. Most importantly, Sen. Miller’s bill would end the failed approach of punishing adults who choose to use marijuana, a policy which has caused much harm in Rhode Island.

If you are a Rhode Island resident, please call your state senator and representative and ask them to push for a vote on Sen. Miller’s bill.

 

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MPP and Regulate Rhode Island Release New Legalization Report


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Three out of five Rhode Islanders agree that it’s time to legalize marijuana for adult use. The conversation that should be taking place among state policymakers is not if Rhode Island should legalize and regulate marijuana. They should be discussing how it will be done.

Yesterday, we published a comprehensive new report addressing the best way for Rhode Island to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana. We are sharing this document with lawmakers in an effort to accelerate the process and move us closer to enacting real policy.

Although three New England states have already ended marijuana prohibition, Rhode Island’s state legislature continues to delay serious consideration of legalization. Unfortunately, lawmakers are now thinking about extending the legalization study commission established last year, which will only delay progress. However, another bill has been introduced which would put the issue to the voters.

We need the General Assembly to stop dragging its feet and take action. If you are a Rhode Island resident, please contact your state senator and representative and urge them to take action this year on marijuana policy reform.

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MPP Releases 2018 Strategic Plan


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MPP is excited to be moving into 2018 at a time when marijuana policy reform has unprecedented momentum. While there are sure to be challenges ahead, MPP is confident that we will make great strides this year.

You can find the strategic plan here.

In a great sign of things to come, one of our goals is already on the verge of success. On Thursday, the Vermont legislature passed a bill that would make possession and limited home cultivation legal in the Green Mountain State! The bill is expected to be signed into law in the coming weeks.

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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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