Monday, December 28, 2009

Rhode Island to consider changing it marijuana stance

PROVIDENCE - A Senate commission will soon explore whether Rhode Island
should decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana and
tax the drug, a path recently taken by Massachusetts.

Commission members are exploring several questions that suggest an
underlying skepticism with criminalizing marijuana, including whether
existing prohibitions have decreased drug use, caused corruption among
law enforcement officials, and resulted in violence. The panel will
present its findings early next year.

Commission member Nick Horton, a policy researcher for OpenDoors, which
works to reintegrate criminal offenders into society, said presidential
candidates have admitted using marijuana but people in his Providence
neighborhood still get jailed for it. "That double standard does
more harm than good to our justice system,'' he said.

State Senator Joshua Miller, a Democrat from Cranston, created the
commission and serves as its chairman. He has not yet backed any
specific changes to Rhode Island's drug laws, but members will hear
testimony about recent changes in Massachusetts.

In November 2008, Bay State voters decided to make possession of an
ounce or less of marijuana punishable by a $100 fine and confiscation of
the drug rather than a crime carrying a maximum six-month prison
sentence and a $500 fine.

The measure was approved over the objections of police and prosecutors,
who feared it would encourage use of what they consider more harmful
drugs and interfere with their ability to prosecute traffickers who
sometimes become suspects because of marijuana possession.

Some cities and towns in Massachusetts have since created additional
penalties to discourage marijuana use.

Rhode Island lawmakers already have taken steps to legalize some
marijuana use. In 2006, they started allowing patients who registered
with the state to possess small amounts of marijuana if it's used to
relieve pain or chronic ailments.

In June, the General Assembly expanded the medical marijuana program by
authorizing up to three nonprofit stores to sell marijuana legally.
State health officials still are determining how those stores will be
licensed and regulated.

Governor Donald L. Carcieri, a Republican, and the State Police have
opposed expansions of the medical marijuana system.

Miller's panel is required to examine the cost of prosecuting and
jailing offenders, as well as consider the possibility of legalizing
marijuana sales and imposing a tax of $35 per ounce or more.

Financial arguments could be tempting because Rhode Island faces a $220
million budget deficit for the fiscal year ending in June, about 7
percent of what state authorities originally expected to collect.

1 comment:

Hydroponics-Nutrients said...

Why this whole drama for this. I cudnt get it???????

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Medical Marijuana