Calling the proposed study commission a “flawed delay tactic,” the pro-pot advocacy group said in an email today that coalition members won’t participate in a study commission if the legislature creates one instead of ending marijuana prohibition.
“The proposed study commission is not a good faith effort to analyze the issue,” said Jared Moffat, director of Regulate RI. “it is a flawed delay tactic. 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. 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.”
The House of Representatives is expected to vote today on a bill that would create a 22-member study commission. But two of the organizations that the bill says would be on the study commission have said they won’t participate – the NAACP and Direct Action For Rights and Equality (DARE).
UPDATE: “Since those three organizations do not want to have members serve on the commission, a floor amendment will be offered today to delete those organizations from the commission,” said House spokesman Larry Berman.
“I appreciate the thought of including the NAACP in the study commission, but I cannot participate in and thereby legitimize this flawed process,” said 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.”
Fred Ordonez, the executive director of DARE added, “The war on drugs has decimated communities of color. Today’s politicians should be championing policies that correct this, not resisting them. I hope voters remember who they were come November 2018.”
The state legislature has considered for seven years now a bill that would legalize cannabis use, purchase and limited growing for adults (more on what “legalization” would actually look like here). A recent poll found 59 percent of Rhode Islanders support legalization and a majority of legislators in both chambers support the bill too. But Speaker of the House Nick Mattiello and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio have declined to allow the bill a vote. Ruggerio was a sponsor of the Senate version of the bill before he became Senate President, when he said he co-signed to have a “seat at the table” rather than because he supported the bill.
Marijuana is already legal in Massachusetts, Maine, Washington DC, Colorado, Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington state, and Alaska. Colorado and Washington have reported large revenue increases and few residual problems.
“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,” said Matthew Schweich, director of state campaigns for the Marijuana Policy Project.