Regulate Rhode Island Coalition Says Members Would NOT Participate in Marijuana Study Commission Proposed by General Assembly
H 5551, which is scheduled for a vote on Wednesday, calls for a study commission that includes representatives of the NAACP, Direct Action for Rights and Equality, and Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, but those organizations are ‘not interested in helping lawmakers once again avoid a vote on legalization’
The Regulate Rhode Island coalition on Wednesday announced its members will not participate in the marijuana study commission that would be created by H. 5551, calling it a “flawed delay tactic” on the part of legislative leaders. Instead, they are urging lawmakers to hold a vote on a compromise approach that would make marijuana legal for adults beginning in July 2018 and establish an advisory board to make recommendations for regulating and taxing marijuana in Rhode Island.
‘Not Interested In Helping Lawmakers Avoid A Vote On Legalization’
The most recent version of H. 5551, which is scheduled for a vote in the House on Wednesday, names several members to the proposed 22-person study commission, including “the President of the Rhode Island Chapter of the NAACP or designee,” “the Director of the local chapter of DARE (Direct Action for Rights and Equality) or designee,” and “a local representative of Doctors for Cannabis Regulation (DFCR), to be appointed by the Board President of the DFCR.”
All three organizations are part of the Regulate Rhode Island coalition.
Coalition members will not participate in the commission if H. 5551 is enacted, the organization announced, because they are “not interested in helping lawmakers once again avoid a vote on legalization.”
Instead, Regulate Rhode Island is continuing to call on House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio to allow legislators to vote on a compromise “incremental legalization” proposal that was announced last week by Sen. Joshua Miller and Rep. Scott Slater.
It would make possession of up to one ounce of marijuana legal for adults 21 and older on July 1, 2018 and establish an advisory board to draft a report with recommendations for how to regulate the cultivation and sale of marijuana for adult use.
“We are prepared to compromise in a significant way, but there must be progress on the issue this year,” Sen. Miller said, reports Gage Peake at Leafly. “Our proposal balances the will of the majority of voters who want marijuana to be legal for adults while respecting colleagues who want to slow things down and get the regulations right.”
“Legislative leaders in Massachusetts say that marijuana businesses will be open there no later than July 1, 2018,” Rep. Slater said. “Rhode Islanders will be able to cross the border and legally purchase marijuana, and they should not be considered lawbreakers in our state when they come back.
“Virtually all of our neighboring states are moving in this direction, and we want to see Rhode Island at least establish a viable path to legalization so that we are ready to move forward next year,” Slater said.
“The proposed study commission is not a good faith effort to analyze the issue; it is a flawed delay tactic,” said Jared Moffat, director of Regulate Rhode Island. “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,” Moffat said. “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,” Moffat said. “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,” Moffat said. “We call on House Speaker Mattiello and Senate President Ruggerio to stop stalling and allow our legislators to vote on legalization.”
“I appreciate the thought of including the NAACP in the study commission, but I cannot participate in and thereby legitimize this flawed process,” agreed Jim Vincent, president of the Rhode Island chapter of the NAACP. “The residents of our state have expressed their desire to see marijuana legalized, and it is the legislature’s job to decide on whether we should move forward or not.
“Leaving that question up to a 22-person study commission after several years of public debate has already taken place is inappropriate,” Vincent said.
‘Legalization Is A No-Brainer’
“I don’t understand why the General Assembly refuses to vote on a bill to legalize marijuana,” said Dr. James Crowley, co-chair of Regulate Rhode Island and a spokesperson for Doctors for Cannabis Regulation (DFCR).
“DFCR cannot see the value of being part of a study commission that appears intended to slow down the process by repeating the tired anti-legalization arguments that are contradicted by medical evidence,” Dr. Crowley said.
“From the physicians’ perspective, legalization is a no-brainer.”
‘I Hope Voters Remember’
“The war on drugs has decimated communities of color,” said Fred Ordoñez, executive director of Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE). “Today’s politicians should be championing policies that correct this, not resisting them.
“I hope voters remember who they were come November 2018,” Ordoñez said.
‘Will Only Delay Efforts’
“This eight month long, 22-member study commission will only delay efforts to reform Rhode Island’s failed policy of marijuana prohibition,” said Matthew Schweich, director of state campaigns for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “It is hard to believe that a study commission could provide helpful recommendations on how to implement a policy of legalizing and regulating marijuana when that same study commission cannot agree on whether the policy should even exist.
“That is the fundamental problem with this bill and the reason why many consider it a stall tactic,” Schweich said. “Given that a strong majority of Rhode Islanders supports legalization, the General Assembly should set aside the study commission and hold a vote on the compromise bill before the end of the session.”
About Regulate Rhode Island
Regulate Rhode Island is a coalition of community leaders, organizations, and residents committed to ending the failed policy of marijuana prohibition and replacing it with a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol.
Member organizations include the Rhode Island NAACP, Rhode Island ACLU, Rhode Island Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Rhode Island Working Families, Rhode Island Sierra Club, Rhode Island Young Democrats, Clergy for a New Drug Policy, Law Enforcement Action Partnership, and the Marijuana Policy Project, among others.
For more information, visit http://www.RegulateRI.com.