Attorney General Peter Kilmartin has been using taxpayer money to lobby local municipalities into accepting template legislation to prohibit cannabis use. Far from providing useful information for legislators, Kilmartin’s Assistant Joee Lindbeck has been traveling around the state pushing anti-cannabis propaganda that would make Henry Anslinger proud. Last week, I took the time to attend the Middletown Town Council meeting, as I was made aware that Lindbeck would be giving her presentation.
Middletown is my hometown, and I’ve been known to attend Town Council meetings from time to time to voice my opinion. In the past, I have specifically worked to fight against what I see as archaic and short-sighted drug laws. As I began this fight locally last fall, I organized a group called Regulate Middletown (in honor of Regulate Rhode Island), and I quickly came to realize that Middletown wasn’t the only municipality working quickly to pre-emptively ban both recreational and medical marijuana establishments from opening in their town through zoning code restrictions.
In fact, Bristol, West Greenwich, and Tiverton, among others, had also been introducing similar ordinances restricting both compassion centers and recreational cannabis stores pre-emptively, all with the idea that regulation would soon be over the horizon. What was most confusing about these ordinances, as I read them, is that the bill they are all trying to pre-emptively legislate against, H5555, clearly states (in section 21-28.11-10): “… that no local government may prohibit any type of cannabis establishments’ operation altogether, either expressly or through the enactment of ordinances or regulations which make any type of cannabis establishments’ operation impracticable.”
From here, two options emerge. Either the legislators of these towns did not thoroughly read the regulation bill that they are working so furiously to prevent, or they are willingly legislating in direct contradiction to potential state law and current public will. What makes that even more disconcerting is the Middletown Planning Board’s vote to “hire a consultant” to help explain the apparent confusion caused by not reading the legislation you’re working against. An eye must be kept on the Council to see from which firm that consultant is hired, as it smells heavily of a conflict of interest.
The presentation given last week by Assistant to the Attorney General Joee Lindbeck (who is scored as being ‘half-true’ by Politifact) was nothing short of embarrassing. As an academic, her work would have been laughed out of any professional setting. What makes it even more confusing is that as a professional lawyer, Lindbeck failed to provide many works cited, and riddled her speech with blatant falsehoods.
For example, in the video recording below, you can hear her say that “small amounts of marijuana is [sic] allowed under the law.” That is plainly false. Although no longer a criminal offense, possession of any amount of cannabis still remains illegal. One would expect an attorney to be more judicious with her work. In another example, she attempts to link medicinal cannabis with suicides in Rhode Island while providing zero evidence, not one source or citation, for justification. In even yet another example, she cites “marijuana-related traffic deaths” without pointing out just how problematic the term “marijuana-related” can truly be.
Middletown is not the first place Lindbeck has visited recently. She’s also been to Chariho, Narragansett, Portsmouth, South Kingstown, and Johnston, to name a few. According to the Providence Journal, during these visits, along with the presentation, “[each] council gets a Kilmartin-approved packet with copies of ordinances passed by municipalities across the state to limit the drug. The packets also have pre-written resolutions the towns can pass and forward to the General Assembly. For example: ‘A resolution to oppose the legalization of marijuana … in the city/town of _____.’” As noted above, these resolutions are in direct opposition to the proposed cannabis regulation bill, which would inevitably cause legal battles throughout Rhode Island between municipalities and the state, further wasting taxpayer money.
The Attorney General’s office is scaring our local town councils into legislation. Once they are sufficiently frightened, the office provides each municipality with template anti-cannabis legislation that directly contradicts with the potential state law. The job of the Attorney General is to enforce the state’s laws, not lobby for and against them. So why is the office of Attorney General Kilmartin using taxpayer resources to promote anti-cannabis propaganda? Considering that these presentations delivered by Joee Lindbeck are riddled with half-truths, untruths, and post-truth, we should all agree that it’s not the Attorney General’s job to waste taxpayer money and muddy the waters of such an important public debate. No matter how one feels about the issue.