Study also finds racial disparities in rates of citations issued to African Americans and whites in cities that provided demographic data
SOUTH KINGSTOWN, Rhode Island — A new report compiled by Peter Phipps, a professor of journalism at the University of Rhode Island, and students in his Media and Law course found that Rhode Island police officers continue to devote resources to enforcing laws against marijuana even after possession of small amounts was decriminalized in 2013.
According to the study, which analyzed data provided by police departments representing about 85% of the state’s population, officers issued approximately 5,000 citations for marijuana possession from April 2013 through 2017. Each marijuana citation carries a minimum fine of $150.
Mr. Phipps commented, “Before this survey by journalism students at URI, no one knew how police in Rhode Island were enforcing the 2013 marijuana possession law. The class found stark differences from community to community. Among the state’s largest cities, Warwick and Pawtucket aggressively wrote marijuana citations, while Providence and Woonsocket police were more laissez faire. In 2015, for example, Warwick wrote 10 times as many citations as Providence. Overall, the class found police write most citations at traffic stops and cite males six times as frequently as females.”
Advocates for legalizing and regulating marijuana see the report as further reason for Rhode Island to follow Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, and six other states around the country in ending marijuana prohibition.
Matthew Schweich, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said, “Despite the fact that three out of five Rhode Islanders think it’s time to legalize and regulate marijuana, taxpayers are still contributing significant resources to enforce prohibition. It makes no sense to spend money on a policy that punishes adults for using a substance that is far less harmful than alcohol.”
In the municipalities that provided data on race, the study also found significant disparities in the rates of citations issued to African Americans and whites. In those six cities and towns, the study found that 39% of citations were issued to African Americans, which make up only 8% of the total population in Rhode Island.
In 2013, the American Civil Liberties Union released a study showing that African Americans were nearly three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites in Rhode Island from 2001 to 2010, despite evidence that African Americans and whites consume marijuana at roughly the same rate.
The URI report highlights significant differences in enforcement among various cities and towns in Rhode Island. Warwick issued the most citations by far — 934 from 2013 to 2017 — while Providence averaged only 33 citations per year from 2014 to 2016.
The full report can be read online at www.regulateri.com/decrim-report.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, an organization led by some of the most prominent physicians in the country, has formally endorsed the effort to legalize and regulate marijuana for adult use in Rhode Island.
The addition of DFCR to the Regulate Rhode Island coalition comes at a pivotal time, just as state lawmakers are considering legislation to end marijuana prohibition.
Members of DFCR’s leadership team include former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders; integrative medicine pioneer Dr. Andrew Weil; Dr. H. Westley Clark, former director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment; Dr. Chris Beyrer, founder and director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Public Health and Human Rights; Dr. Lester Grinspoon, Associate Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School; Dr. David Lewis, Professor Emeritus of Medicine and Community Health at Brown University; Dr. Donald Abrams, chief of the Hematology-Oncology Division at San Francisco General Hospital; and Dr. David Nathan, a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
Statement from Dr. David Lewis, founder of Brown University Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies and Professor Emeritus of Community Health and Medicine, Brown University Alpert Medical School:
“Our over-reliance on the criminal justice system has caused needless harm to families and communities without meeting its goals. The public already ‘gets it’, that the War On Drugs has failed.”
Statement from Dr. James Crowley, former president of the Rhode Island Medical Society, member of Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, and co-chair of Regulate Rhode Island:
“By any objective measure, cannabis is far less harmful than alcohol. Given what the science tells us, it makes no sense to continue criminalizing marijuana and punishing adults who use it responsibly. Prohibiting cannabis has created an out-of-control illicit market that undermines public health and safety. It is time for us to take a new approach.”
Statement from Dr. David Nathan, founder and president of Doctors for Cannabis Regulation:
“Doctors for Cannabis Regulation is proud to stand with Regulate Rhode Island in calling for a more sensible approach to cannabis policy. Our organization believes that you don’t have to be ‘pro-marijuana’ to oppose its prohibition. It is clear that the prohibitionist approach causes more harm to society than marijuana itself. The public health benefits of legalizing and regulating marijuana similarly to alcohol are significant, and we think it is time for Rhode Island and the rest of the country to take steps toward reforming the failed policy of marijuana prohibition.”
Regulate Rhode Island will hold a news conference on Tuesday, 4/12 at 1 p.m. ET in the Statehouse shortly before the House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on H 7752, the Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The Rhode Island House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing Tuesday on a bill that would end marijuana prohibition in the state and replace it with a system in which adults can purchase marijuana from licensed businesses, similarly to alcohol. Shortly before the hearing, marijuana market researchers, business owners, and entrepreneurs will join Regulate Rhode Island for a news conference to discuss the legislation’s potential to foster new businesses and create thousands of jobs in Rhode Island.
The news conference will take place at 1 p.m. ET in the House Lounge of the Statehouse. The committee hearing is scheduled to take place in Room 101 at the rise of the House.
“This bill would provide a tremendous economic boost for our state, which is one of several reasons why our state legislators should not delay voting on it,” said Regulate Rhode Island Director Jared Moffat. “This proposal would create dozens of new businesses and thousands of new jobs across Rhode Island. Our state’s unemployment rate is still significantly higher than our neighbors’, and this legislation will put many Rhode Islanders back to work.”
H 7752, known as the Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act, would make possession of limited amounts of marijuana legal for adults 21 years of age and older, and it would establish a tightly controlled system of licensed marijuana cultivation sites, testing facilities, and retail stores.
“Colorado’s legal marijuana market currently employs more than 20,000 people,” said Eric Casey, a regulatory analyst for 4Front Ventures, which researches the marijuana market and monitors marijuana regulatory issues. “Instead of continuing to have an out of control underground market, Rhode Island has the opportunity to create a responsibly regulated, legal market. Workers will be better protected, provided salaries and benefits, and paying into the tax system.”
“A recent analysis estimates that the legal marijuana market could infuse up to $44 billion each year into the U.S. economy by 2020,” said Adam Fine, an attorney for Vincent Sederberg, LLC, which offers legal services and consulting to state-legal marijuana businesses. “Savvy investors know that legal marijuana is the next big thing and are closely watching East Coast states like Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Whichever state moves to end marijuana prohibition first will certainly see a larger share of investment and business growth.”
WHAT: News conference to discuss the potential for H 7752 to foster new businesses and create thousands of new jobs in Rhode Island, followed by the House Judiciary Committee hearing on H 7752
WHEN: Tuesday, April 12, news conference at 1 p.m. ET, committee hearing at rise of the House
WHERE: News conference in the House Lounge of the Rhode Island Statehouse, committee hearing in Room 101
WHO: Spencer Blier, Rhode Island cannabis entrepreneur and investor
Eric Casey, regulatory analyst, 4Front Ventures
Adam Fine, attorney, Vicente Sederberg, LLC
Ross Kaplan, owner and co-founder, Heritage Cannabis Company
Raymond White, chief operating officer, Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center
Jared Moffat, director, Regulate Rhode Island
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