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.
With the exception of Jack Cole everybody returned yesterday to testify in support of the companion bills (S2367 and S2253) introduced by Senators Josh Miller (D-Cranston) and Rhoda Perry (D-Providence). Also testifying was Michael DiLauro, Assistant Public Defender and legislative liaison.
While many believe that decriminalization has the best chance in passing this year, what’s really exciting is the support developing here in Rhode Island and nationwide for legalization. Rhode Island Deputy Public Defender Barbara Hurst submitted a letter to the Senate Committee arguing in support of legalization! (Go to RI Future for complete text of her letter.)
We’ve discussed the reasoning for decrim/legalization here and here already, and you can click on the above LEAP or MPP links for more info. Today I wanted to give props to the legislators who are going to bat for this. . . again! What voters can do now is make sure your senators and representatives know that you want this legislation to go to the floor for a vote, and that support for these bills will be rewarded come election time. In a recent poll, 65% of Rhode Islanders supported decriminalization of marijuana possession. That’s really all they need to know.