Archive for the ‘ Marijuana ’ Category

filed under: Good Ideas | Marijuana

Legalizing Marijuana — Potential Tax Revenues

9AM ON 16/04/2014
BY Beth Comery

State House Testimony will be heard today by the House Judiciary Committee concerning Marijuana Legalization Bill 7506. In addition to the compelling social justice issues, proponents will have a strong economic argument to make to Rhode Island legislators this year, supported by the early news out of Colorado and a recent report from OpenDoors, a nonprofit that serves formerly incarcerated individuals and their families.

Nick Horton, the policy specialist at OpenDoors who wrote the report, suggests that legalization and regulation of marijuana in Rhode Island could generate from $21.5 million to $82 million in annual tax revenues. Zachary Malinowski at The Providence Journal asked Pat Oglesby, former chief tax counsel for the U.S. Senate Finance Committee and founder of the Center for New Tax Revenue for an assessment (“Report: Legalizing marijuana would reap millions of dollars for RI”). He predicts,

. . . that Rhode Island’s plans to legalize and regulate marijuana “would be a significant improvement” over the tax structures in Colorado and Washington. Those are the first two states to legalize the drug and the tax rate is based on the price of the cannabis.

“The Rhode Island Bill’s per-ounce tax base is more stable and harder to manipulate,” Oglesby said. “It’s a better tax plan.”


filed under: Marijuana | War on Drugs

ProJo Editorial — Legalize Marijuana

3PM ON 03/04/2014
BY Beth Comery

Providence Journal I have a piece in today’s Providence Journal — “Drug war has failed; legalize marijuana” — in which I take the ProJo editorial board to task for their recent opposition to the legalization of marijuana.

My advocacy concerning the war on drugs and the reform of marijuana laws is known to regular Dose readers — but I’m pretty sure I’m preaching to the converted here — so I am glad for this opportunity to be making my arguments to a much wider audience, and one that may still need some convincing on the issue.

However, I would not have chosen the image they used online — a stock photo of a dirty jobless hippie-type. I would have preferred a photo of prison overcrowding.


filed under: Marijuana | Social Justice

Legislation To Legalize And Tax Marijuana In RI

4PM ON 16/02/2014
BY Beth Comery

ri state house At a press conference last week State Rep. Edith H. Ajello (D-Providence) and State Senator Joshua Miller (D-Cranston) officially announced that they are once again sponsoring a bill to regulate and tax the sale of marijuana — effectively legalizing it for adult recreational use as in Washington and Colorado. (I also spoke at this press conference as a member of LEAP.) These two enlightened and pragmatic lawmakers have articulated their position in today’s Providence Journal; this would be an excellent piece to share with a friend or relative who is still on the fence.

Ajello and Miller show how marijuana prohibition has failed and how the state would benefit from legalization. They adroitly dismantle one tired opposition argument — the discredited “gateway drug” concept.

Those who support our current prohibition laws often claim marijuana is a “gateway drug” that will often lead to the use of other drugs, but studies suggest otherwise. According to a 1999 study commissioned by the White House and performed by the Institute of Medicine, marijuana “does not appear to be a gateway drug to the extent that it is the cause or even that it is the most significant predictor of serious drug abuse.”

Marijuana’s illegal status creates the gateway. By forcing marijuana consumers into the underground market, we dramatically increase the possibility that they will be exposed to more dangerous substances.

By last Wednesday’s press conference, Rep. Ajello had already collected 27 signatures in support of the bill from fellow representatives. Now is the time for you to contact your state representatives and state senators and let them know that you vote, and that you support this legislation. And make it your mission to change the mind of at least one acquaintance or relative.

As reported by the Marijuana Policy Project polling shows that a majority of Rhode Islanders already support legalization:

Of those polled, 52% would like to see all penalties for personal possession and use of marijuana removed and marijuana treated in a manner similar to alcohol, where it would be taxed, regulated, and sold in state-licensed stores to adults over the age of 21. This idea also received bipartisan support and was backed by 55% of Democrats and 54% of Republicans.

It’s going to happen. Let’s be one of the first states on this, not one of the last. (More info at Regulate Rhode Island.)


filed under: Good Ideas | Marijuana

Uruguay To Legalize And Regulate Marijuana

5PM ON 10/12/2013
BY Beth Comery

nana goes shopping This just in from the PanAm Post:

José “Pepe” Mujica, president of Uruguay, wants to radically change the how of fighting drug trafficking — with an alternative to prohibition. . . The problem is not the drug, but the drug trafficking, the mafia, the violence it generates,” Mujica said in an interview with Andrés Oppenheimer, on CNN Español.

This small South American nation tucked between Brazil and Argentina is expected to become the first country to legalize marijuana when its senate votes on the bill today — right about now. The leadership of this country sounds unbelievably enlightened and sensible. Reuters adds:

Uruguay’s leftist president, José Mujica, defends his initiative as a bid to regulate and tax a market that already exists but is run by criminals.

“We’ve given this market as a gift to the drug traffickers and that is more destructive socially than the drug itself, because it rots the whole of society,” the 78-year-old former guerrilla fighter told Argentine news agency Telam.

This image of a perfectly respectable lady tending to/or shopping for her plants in her pearl earrings comes from an adorable PSA (after the jump) designed to explain to the people of Uruguay how this is all going to shake out in the days to come. It’s in Spanish, which I don’t speak, but, pretty sure that’s what’s going on.

For more read the June 26, 2012, Time magazine article “Uruguay’s Plan to Legalize Marijuana Sales: Should the Rest of the World Follow?”

To which I say “Sí, sí!” and “Viva Pepe!”

more »


filed under: Blogosphere | Marijuana

Much Ado About Nothing

5PM ON 24/09/2013
BY Beth Comery

scream man Our buddy Bob Plain over at RIFuture was cited by East Greenwich police recently for not wearing a seatbelt and having a small amount of marijuana in his car. Bob has of course written up an account of the event at RIFuture.

I was given a ticket for not wearing my seat belt and having a small amount of marijuana in the car. I’m pretty embarrassed about not wearing my seat belt, because I think it’s kinda dumb not to do so. The marijuana, on the other hand, was entirely legal: my spouse has a medical marijuana card and we switch cars all the time.

I’ll probably have to pay a fine for not wearing my seat belt and the judge will hopefully dismiss the marijuana ticket. I’m hoping the misunderstanding might lead to some reform in RI’s medical marijuana statutes: spouses shouldn’t be punished for transporting their loved one’s medicine.

Dave Segal of Demand Progress had this to say about the incident, “It’s amazing that so many right-wingers who ostensibly want the state to have less power are giddy that Bob Plain got in trouble for 1: Not wearing a seatbelt (which any good libertarian shouldn’t want to be a crime) and 2: Having medical marijuana in his car (in a state in which medical marijuana is legal, and pot’s been decrim-ed). Bob’s been a class act as usual.”

I for one feel much safer knowing this menace has been brought to justice.


filed under: Marijuana |

Legalize Marijuana? — Debate At Brown

9AM ON 22/04/2013
BY Daily Dose

ssdp (4.23) Colorado and Washington recently passed voter initiatives to make the sale and cultivation  of marijuana a legally regulated industry — should other states follow their lead? As marijuana legalization is being considered by lawmakers in Rhode Island and nationally, two sides will argue for and against more liberalized marijuana laws.

Head over to the List Art Center Tuesday to hear a debate on this issue. Kevin Sabet, board member of Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) and “quarterback” of the anti-marijuana movement and Aaron Houston, national director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

This event presented by the Janus Forum, the student arm of the Political Theory Project, and the Brown University chapter of SSDP.

4:30pm to 6pm, Tuesday, April 23, Brown University, List Art Building, 68 College Street, Room 120, (directions)


filed under: Marijuana |

Marijuana Decrim Law Takes Effect Monday, April 1

12AM ON 01/04/2013
BY Beth Comery

rotunda The marijuana decriminalization law, passed by the general assembly last summer and signed into law by Governor Chafee, will take effect on the first nanosecond of Monday, April 1st. Possession of small amounts of marijuana will no longer carry criminal penalties in Rhode Island. The indispensable Robert Capecchi of the Marijuana Policy Project has the facts in a nutshell.

S-2253/H-7092, sponsored by Sen. Josh Miller and Rep. John “Jay” Edwards and signed into law by Gov. Lincoln Chafee last June, replaces criminal penalties for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana with a $150 civil fine similar to a traffic ticket. If the offender is under the age of 18, his or her parents or legal guardians will be notified and he or she will be required to complete an alcohol and drug education course, as well as perform community service, in addition to the fine. Fifty percent of the fines collected by the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal will be directed toward drug education and treatment programs.

The Providence Journal ran a related story today — “New law may boost drug use, chiefs say.” May? Why didn’t the chiefs look into it and find out? The news might have put their minds at ease. Forbes magazine reports, “Ten years ago, Portugal decriminalized all drugs. One decade after this unprecedented experiment, drug abuse is down by half.”

Press conference to celebrate, noon, Monday, April 1st, Rhode Island State House, Smith Street


filed under: Funniness | Marijuana

Lewis Black At PPAC

3PM ON 21/03/2013
BY Beth Comery

Lewis Black (3.24) Some years ago I was sitting on my couch watching a Lewis Black comedy special. At one point, he took to task the Baby Boomers as a cohort so feckless that they had failed to do the one thing expected of them — legalize marijuana. And I knew he was right. I felt shame for my people.

As fate would have it, I was soon to fall in with various marijuana activists (not an oxymoron) who brought me to the attention of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP)* and I have been representing and testifying ever since. And I hate public speaking. But as of April 1st, the new marijuana decriminalization legislation goes into effect here in Rhode Island, and just last month a new bill for taxing and regulating marijuana (legalization) was introduced.

So Mr. Black, you have succeeded where countless others have failed. You got me off my big fat couch.

*I am a former Providence Police officer.

The Rant is Due; tickets still available. Very amusing interview with Channing Gray in today’s ProJo. I love this guy. (Black, not Gray.)

$29.50 to $65, 8pm, Sunday, March 24th, The Rant is Due, PPAC, 220 Weybosset Street


filed under: Marijuana | general assembly

House Committee Hearing On Marijuana Regulation And Taxation

10PM ON 23/02/2013
BY Beth Comery

state house The House Judiciary Committee will hold a public hearing on the Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act (HB-5274) at 4:30pm, Wednesday, February 27th. Passage of this legislation means Rhode Island would join Colorado and Washington state in legalizing the recreational use of marijuana for adults.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee is moving forward, instructing the state Liquor Control Board to come up with rules for implementing the law. Knowing that federal law conflicts with these plans Inslee has been in touch with the Justice Department. According to The Seattle Times,

Saying “the world is watching,” Gov. Jay Inslee has sent a five-page letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder that outlines how Washington’s new legal marijuana system will be tightly controlled to prevent illegal activity such as state-licensed pot from leaking into other states.

The federal government considers all marijuana illegal, despite voter-approved laws in Colorado and Washington that legalize recreational use for adults. And Holder, the nation’s top law officer, has suggested that leakage of Washington weed into other states is one of the Department of Justice’s top concerns, Inslee said after a meeting last month with Holder.

Weed leakage . . . this is what keeps Holder up at night. Take a quick scroll through the roster at Marijuana Majority where people of note have agreed to go on record supporting marijuana reform. It’s not surprising to see the likes of Bill Maher, Seth Rogen, and Jimmy Kimmel; but others in favor include former U.S. Supreme Court Judge John Paul Stevens, conservative columnist George Will, and the Episcopal Church. And here are the kickers for persuading your reactionary old grampa: Glenn Beck, Newt Gingrich, Texas Governor Rick Perry, and Sarah Palin.

Hearing 4:30pm, Wednesday, February 27, Rhode Island State House, 82 Smith Street (directions)


filed under: Marijuana | War on Drugs

Patrick Kennedy Against Marijuana Legalization

12PM ON 07/01/2013
BY Beth Comery

squirrel tracks Oh Patrick, how can we miss you if you won’t go away?  Former Rhode Island Rep Patrick Kennedy has come out against the legalization of marijuana. From the Reuters report;

Kennedy, who was married for the first time in 2011, said he worries his 8-month-old son might be predisposed to drug abuse – due to a kind of genetic “trigger” – and that is part of his fight against legalization.

He also said he wants to “reduce the environmental factors that pull that trigger,” such as marijuana use being commonly accepted.

No doubt the Kennedys have an unfortunate genetic load, but Patrick admits his problems were with alcohol and Oxycontin, both legal drugs. So Patrick, you are going to need a more nuanced message for your son than “Don’t use illegal drugs.” and I’d start the conversation early. And by the way, he will definitely be bumping into marijuana and noticing that it is already “commonly accepted” — legal or not — or will you be home schooling him from kindergarten through college?

One more thing Patrick, how many years in prison did you spend as a result of your run-ins with airport security, the Coast Guard, and the Capitol police? Or were you given other options?


filed under: Marijuana | War on Drugs

Attention Pols — Support Marijuana Reform And Be A Winner

9AM ON 08/11/2012
BY Beth Comery

autumn Attitudes are changing across the country regarding marijuana reform. A piece at HuffPo —  “Colorado, Washington Pot Legalization Deals Drug War Major Blow” — has a great quote from my LEAP cohort Tom Angell.

“To put this into historical context, there is no historical context,” said Tom Angell, spokesperson for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. “It’s the first time any state has ever voted to legalize marijuana — and two of them did it.”

Tom is also the founder of Marijuana Majority a website where people of note (a real mixed bag of pols, celebs, religious leaders, etc.) have thrown in with the movement. It’s real fun to scroll through.

Mr. Angell helped local reformers immensely with the testimony at the Rhode Island state house that finally  resulted in the new marijuana decriminalization legislation (takes effect next April 1st). When facing the committees, we all cited recent polls to the legislators that we felt indicated there would be no political price to pay for backing marijuana reform. Were we right?

Answer after the jump.

more »


filed under: Marijuana | Social Justice

General Assembly Decriminalizes Marijuana!

11PM ON 05/06/2012
BY Beth Comery

state house I don’t normally use exclamation points in the title line but . . . HOORAY! Rhode Island lawmakers have voted to decriminalize the possession of an ounce or less of marijuana. The House passed the legislation 50-to-24 Tuesday; the Senate passed the bill 28-to-6. It’s already a headline at NORML.

Members of the House and Senate passed twin bills, House Bill 7092 and Senate Bill 2253, which amend state law so that the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by an individual 18 years or older is reduced from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by one year in jail and a $500 maximum fine) to a non-arrestable civil offense — punishable by a $150 fine, no jail time, and no criminal record. You can read NORML’s testimony in favor of these measures here.

Congrats to my pals at Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) — Tom Angell, Shaleen Title, and Jack Cole — the Brown and URI chapters of Students for a Sensible Drug Policy, Becky Mer at Open Doors, Robert Capecchi of the Marijuana Policy Project, and the citizens who just showed up and testified. And big, big thanks to the legislators who recognized the injustice of imprisoning people and ruining lives for no good reason. The following lawmakers have stuck with this issue for a couple of years now and deserve your support in the future — Senators Josh Miller (D-Cranston) and Rhoda Perry (D-Providence), and Representatives John G. Edwards (D-Tiverton) and Edith Ajello (D-Providence). The Governor’s signature is still required; residents of Rhode Island can write him here, and let him know you support this legislation.

(Providence Journal June 6 — “Marijuana Bills Pass House, Senate”)

It’s nice to have some good news for a change.


filed under: Marijuana | Social Justice

Marijuana Decrim Headed For A Vote — It is Time

9AM ON 30/05/2012
BY Beth Comery

state house Hooray! The House and Senate Judiciary Committees have voted to send the Marijuana Decrim bills to the House and Senate floors for a vote. (Last year these measures died in committee with House Majority leader Gordon Fox stating that it “wasn’t time.” There’s been some rejiggering with money received for the civil penalties no longer going to the city or town of the infraction, but rather to the state (with 50% earmarked for those drug awareness programs that have no measurable record of success but make everybody feel better). More at Providence Journal 5.30.12.

Big thanks to prime movers Rep. John G. Edwards (D-Tiverton) — who says he has 42 cosponsors in the House — and Rep. Edith Ajello (D-Providence); and on the Senate side Sen. Josh Miller (D-Cranston) and Sen. Rhoda Perry (D-Providence) deserve great praise for sticking with this issue. Support these elected officials! Integrity, brains and common sense — that’s all you can hope for. If you don’t live where you can actually vote for them, you can still shower them with money; and then let your representatives and senators know you support this legislation. It is time.


filed under: Marijuana | Social Justice

Rally To Stop Paying For Marijuana Prohibition

11AM ON 21/05/2012
BY Beth Comery

incarcerated americans

(5.22) And let’s stop destroying lives and breaking up families.  Join the good people of Open Doors Rhode Island for a rally in the State House rotunda in support of marijuana legislation now under consideration in the general assembly.

Legislators at the RI State House are considering bills to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana (under 1 ounce). Concerned residents across the state are invited to attend a rally to support marijuana decriminalization, a sensible measure which would remove current criminal penalties with a $150 civil fine.

Confirmed speakers include: Representative Jay Edwards (D – Tiverton, Portsmouth), House Sponsor of the Bill; Dr. David Lewis, MD, Professor Emeritus of Community Health at Brown University; Beth Comery, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

Open Doors is a non-profit organization which provides support for the formerly incarcerated as they prepare to leave prison, return home, and stabilize in the community. The agency’s programs include discharge planning within the men’s Minimum Security, policy and advocacy on criminal justice issues, as well as a resource center and employment program. More info including their new location on Plainfield Street at Open Doors. See their informative video after the jump.

(Image from the Urban Institute.)

3:30pm, Tuesday, May 22, State House rotunda, Smith Street, (directions)

more »


filed under: Marijuana | War on Drugs

Obama And Marijuana — What Is He Thinking?

5PM ON 16/04/2012
BY Beth Comery

As a speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) I have testified at the state house in favor of liberalizing our marijuana laws, and I have written in this space before advocating an end to the “War on Drugs” altogether. So I keep an eye on related events and news from around the country. But the current campaign by President Obama and the Justice Department against the California marijuana dispensaries — culminating in the recent raid by IRS and DEA officers on Oaksterdam University in Oakland — have left me baffled. Turns out I’m in good company as the assembled talking heads on last week’s Real Time with Bill Maher were also unable to discern the President’s thinking or possible motivation in all this. Never mind that Obama is going back on his promise not to use federal resources for this purpose, but from a political point of view this is insanity. Why is he going so far out of his way to alienate his political base? It’s just baffling.

To learn more about what drug legalization might look like, check out this article from Forbes Magazine, “Ten Years After Decriminalization, Drug Abuse Down By Half in Portugal.”

Drug abuse is bad, the War on Drugs is worse.


filed under: Marijuana | the law

This Is The Year For Marijuana Reform In Rhode Island

1PM ON 28/03/2012
BY Beth Comery

state house Testimony in front of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees in support of reforming our marijuana laws has concluded. There are actually two separate initiatives under consideration: decriminalization and legalization.

Last week the house committee heard testimony on H7092 — the decriminalization bill introduced by Representative John G. Edwards (D-Portsmouth, Tiverton), which would make possession of an ounce or less of marijuana a civil offense punishable by a fine of $150, and no jail time — as well as H7582 a bill submitted by Representative Edith H. Ajello (D-Providence) for the taxing and regulation of marijuana. Testifying in support of both bills were: Jack Cole, retired New Jersey State Police Lieutenant and founder of LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition); Robert Capecchi, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) in Washington D.C.; Jarred Moffat from the Brown University chapter of Students for a Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP); Becky Mer from Open Doors an organization that provides services to formerly incarcerated individuals and their families; and myself, also a LEAP speaker.

Continued after the jump.

more »


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