Posts Tagged ‘ marijuana decriminalization ’

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: 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 | 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 »


filed under: Marijuana |

Decriminalize Marijuana — It’s Time

6PM ON 11/03/2012
BY Beth Comery

statehouse It speaks volumes that several members of the General Assembly feel comfortable re-introducing a Marijuana Decriminalization bill even though it’s an election year. Perhaps politicians are finally figuring out that not only is there no political price to be paid for taking this position, but just the opposite may be true.

We reported last month on the recent Rhode Island poll showing an overwhelming 65% supporting a decrease in the penalties for simple possession of less than an ounce of marijuana by removing the possibility of jail time and making the offense a civil citation. That means members of the General Assembly will be enhancing their chances of re-election by supporting this bill.

Big thanks to representatives John G. Edwards (D- Portsmouth, Tiverton), Frank Ferri (D-Warwick), House Minority Leader Brian C. Newberry (R- North Smithfield, Burrillville), Anastasia P. Williamson (D-Providence), and Peter G. Palumbo (D-Cranston) who introduced H-7092 on January 11; it has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee with a hearing scheduled for Wednesday, March 28.

This issue now brings together people from both sides of the aisle: small-government Republicans, progressive Democrats, and Libertarians of either stripe. A Gallup poll last October showed 50% of Americans support legalizing marijuana; most recently Pat Robertson came out in favor of complete legalization as well.

Sadly the only elected officials who seem to be doubling-down on enforcement and interdiction are the guys in the White House. What are they thinking?  (More info at Marijuana Policy Project.)


filed under: Criminal Justice | Economic crisis

Rhode Islanders Ready For Marijuana Decrim

4PM ON 06/02/2012
BY Beth Comery

MPP logo Late last month, the Marijuana Policy Project commissioned Public Policy Polling to survey Rhode Island voter attitudes toward marijuana policy. The results are in, and the numbers indicate that Rhode Islanders from both sides of the aisle are ready for change with an overwhelming 65% supporting a decrease in the penalties for simple possession of less than an ounce of marijuana by removing the possibility of jail time and making the offense a civil citation. Robert Capecchi of MPP breaks it down in “Support for marijuana policy reform in Rhode Island: More popular than the politicians think.”

Of the 714 voters 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. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the idea received bipartisan support and was backed by 55% of Democrats and 54% of Republicans. Legislation spearheaded by MPP to establish such a system will be introduced in Rhode Island this session.

Once again Rep. John G. Edwards (D-Tiverton) and Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Cranston) are sponsoring legislation in the General Assembly that would make possession of an ounce or less of marijuana a civil offense subject to at least a $150 fine, rather than the maximum $500 fine and a year in jail imposed under current law.

Big thanks to these legislators for going through all this all over again. These proposals never made it out of committee last year, with the weak-willed Speaker of the House Gordon D. Fox saying “It just wasn’t time.” Who is this man talking to? Who wants to spend tax dollars incarcerating marijuana users? Decriminalization has been working just fine in Connecticut and Massachusetts with no detectable dire consequences.

Tell your representatives that you want this passed now. And tell Gordon Fox “It’s time!” (Fox can be reached at 401.222.2466)


filed under: Marijuana | the law

Ixnay On The Decrim Bill

4PM ON 03/07/2011
BY Beth Comery

state house You’d think with someone named Weed at the helm . . . oh well, maybe next year. Big big thanks to Representative John Edwards (D-Tiverton) for sponsoring the ‘Marijuana Decriminalization’ bill which, despite having 40 cosponsors, apparently lost momentum in the final days/hours of this year’s sausage-making session of the General Assembly. (More on what did and didn’t make it in the ProJo.) Make sure your legislators know you want this to pass next year. Too bad.


filed under: Marijuana | the law

ProJo Supports Marijuana Decriminalization Bill

2PM ON 24/06/2011
BY Beth Comery

steps to rotunda The editorial board of the Providence Journal has come out in favor of bill H-5031/S-270 so that we may join the 14 other states that have eliminated jail time for possession of small amounts of marijuana. (ProJo 6.23.11)

. . . we strongly support a bill in the Rhode Island General Assembly sponsored by state Senators [sic] John G. Edwards and Joshua Miller to decriminalize possession of up to an ounce of pot.

Rather than facing up to a year in jail, people found with this amount would pay a civil fine of $200. (Even as people found drunk in the street with a bottle of bourbon are left alone . . .) Half the money would go to fund drug education and half to localities that issued the citations.

It’s past time to bring some reason to the needlessly fierce and expensive battle against marijuana use and better allocate strained law-enforcement resources.

In a recent editorial to The Tiverton-Little Compton Patch (also signed by Senator Miller) Representative Edwards lays out his position to his constituency. Both he and the ProJo note that in the states that have decriminalized marijuana, “the sky has not fallen in.” Dose readers drive through Massachusetts all the time, noticed anything different?

Let’s get this done! Make sure your State Reps and Senators know that you support this bill!

(On the national front: Students for a Sensible Drug Policy are rallying behind legislation aimed at eliminating the federal government’s authority in marijuana prohibition, “Congressmen Barney Frank and Ron Paul, along with courageous co-sponsors, have introduced H.R. 2306 the “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011″ and we need your help to pass this historic piece of legislation that would end federal marijuana prohibition as we know it.”)


filed under: Good Ideas | Marijuana

Josh Miller Goes National With Progressive Marijuana Policies

4PM ON 20/04/2010
BY Beth Comery

Josh Miller — RI SenateJosh Miller — Senator for District 28, Cranston and Warwick and owner of the Hot Club, Trinity Brewhouse, Local 121 — is now writing to a national audience on the topic of marijuana decriminalization/legalization. Check out the CNBC blog for his thoughtful piece “Rhode Island’s Drive for Sensible Marijuana Laws” posted this morning, including this local update,

On April 13, the Rhode Island House Judiciary Committee went where few states before it have gone, holding its first-ever hearing on a bill that would tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol in the state. Taxing and regulating marijuana would be very different from decriminalizing it for one simple reason: under decriminalization laws, the sale of marijuana remains illegal. Taxing and regulating marijuana would remove the drug from the criminal market, allow state-licensed adults over 21 to cultivate up to three marijuana plants for personal use, make it legal for licensed merchants to sell to adults, and allow governments to make tax revenue from its sale.

If you live in Miller’s district, lucky you. If not, make sure your representatives know that you support Senator Miller’s efforts. (Keep up with his activities and read his newsletter at Josh Miller — State Senate.)


filed under: Good Ideas | the law

The Smokin’ Of The Green

9AM ON 17/03/2010
BY Beth Comery

marijuana The Senate commission chaired by Senator Joshua Miller (D-Cranston) has recommended the decriminalization of an ounce or less of marijuana. According to the ProJo, the panel

. . .voted Tuesday to approve the contents of a 24-page final report that concludes that “marijuana law reform” would save Rhode Island a substantial amount of money by avoiding “costly arrests [and] incarcerations due to simple possession of marijuana.”

So a fiscal meltdown will finally bring about what decades of government data and reasoned arguments (from liberals and conservatives) could not. Okay, I’ll take it.

Opposing panel member Central Falls Police Chief Joseph Moran trotted out that long-discredited malarkey about ’sending the wrong message’ calling marijuana “a dangerous drug”. Children get their ‘messages’ from their parents not the general assembly or the police chiefs of America. Former hall monitor and current Attorney General Patrick Lynch also opposes decriminalization (anyone hoping for Carcieri Redux will be interested in this man’s gubernatorial platform). What world do these people live in? Or what decade? It’s as if they were frightened as children by an episode of Dragnet, and have read or heard absolutely nothing on the topic ever since.

So let me take this opportunity to wish a Happy St. Patrick’s Day to Mister Lynch and Mister Moran. Feel free to hoist a pint or two of ‘the right message’.


filed under: Marijuana |

Whoa, hold on there Cheech…

3PM ON 05/11/2008
BY Beth Comery

… it ain’t legal yet. I don’t want any ’students’ going off half-baked and sparking up a fatty in the Darlings’ parking lot. The Massachusetts marijuana initiative has a few more hurdles to clear before becoming law. And if I may speak to those DA’s who stood before the news cameras a while ago in opposition to the decrim initiative — congratulations, your job just got easier.  The job of a prosecutor isn’t to chalk up wins, but to do justice.  In that pursuit, you represent the people, and the people have now spoken (65% in favor of the initiative according to The Boston Globe). Why do people still cling to these unfounded fears of wildly escalating pot consumption?

The opponents, who include the governor, attorney general, and district attorneys around the state, argued that decriminalizing marijuana possession would promote drug use.

Ask yourselves — is the only reason you don’t do heroin because it’s illegal? People who want to smoke pot are doing it already.


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