Nov 172012
 November 17, 2012

Legalize Marijuana rhode islandMarijuana Legalization Bills Being Introduced In Rhode Island And Maine Ensure All Three- And The Rights Of Individuals To Grow Their Own

By Rick Thompson

On a conference call Thursday afternoon, two House Representatives from the East Coast discussed their pending legislation to legalize marijuana and what their existing medical cannabis programs have contributed to their states already.

Representative Edith Ajello, D- Rhode Island, and Rep. Diane Russell, D- Maine, have both previously sponsored marijuana legalization bills. Ajello is the Chairwoman of her House Judiciary Committee, the position held by Rep. John Walsh in Michigan.

Maine enacted medical marijuana in 2009. Rhode Island passed their medical marijuana law earlier this year, and in neighboring state Massachusetts voters approved a medical marijuana law on November 6, 2012, by more than 60%. Washington and Colorado each legalized marijuana on that same day. Both Representatives said this time around, passing the legalization bills will be easier due to the changing nature of national politics.

The conference call was established by the Marijuana Policy Project, the organization principally responsible for the passage of Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Act in 2008. Both Reps. Ajello and Russell were attending a conference in Washington, DC. Neither Representative minced words about what a state marijuana program could mean to their constituents.

“We created 700 new jobs in Maine,” under the current medical marijuana law, says Rep. Russell.

Input from patients and citizens is driving improvements to the current law. “We are considering introducing a bill that says government should not decide” what conditions are necessary for a medical recommendation, a move toward eliminating Maine’s list of qualifying conditions and placing the power to recommend medicinal cannabis completely in the hands of doctors, she said.

Both reps were quick to dispel old myths about marijuana prohibition. “We see that with dispensaries and the caregiver model, we legalized them and the roof did not cave in,” Russell confirmed.

By advancing legalization legislation, both states will capitalize on the successes of their state medical marijuana programs. “We want to legalize marijuana for sale the way liquor is sold,” Rep. Ajello stated. “Decrim was certainly a step in that process.

“The quicker we can move along with getting this regulated… the better.” Says Russell: “We built the foundation of my bill on the existing (medical marijuana) system.”The motives for legalization are very tangible. “Prohibition costs $21 million in Rhode Island each year,” Ajello said. The new program she proposes would yield approximately “$30.7 million between savings and revenues.”

Russell confirms that Maine would see a similar spike in revenue. “We estimate $8 million dollars” annually, she reports, but admits it is difficult to estimate. There are many revenue streams to consider. “Sales tax, income tax, it think it’s fair to say there is already a market for marijuana.”

Money is not the only motivating factor in pushing for legalization of the socially-accepted medicinal herb. Rep. Ajello said, “I want to see the criminal element out of it.” Russell added: “We have a robust black market here.”

Acceptance among their fellow legislators has been surprising. “There is really much broader support among politicians than I expected,” Ajello says.

Russell accents voter acceptance of recreational use of cannabis. “At the end of the day… people are far ahead of the politicians on this.” She added: “We have seen the culture shift dramatically. We can translate that into good outcomes.”

“Politicians will catch up with the public on this,” Ajello stated.

Both programs will preserve the right of individuals to grow their own marijuana. One allows a cultivation area defined by square footage for individuals and corporations; one would allow caregivers to purchase zip ties from the government, one per plant to illustrate legal possession, as a method of generating funds.

Both Representatives were very positive about the chances for their respective bills during the next legislative cycle. “We need to have a 10,000 foot view of how we are going to manage the drug trade and the start of that is rational policy,” Russell summarized.

Rick Thompson is on 2 radio shows and writes for several MM publications in Michigan

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About Johnny Green

Johnny Green is a marijuana activist from Oregon. He has a Bachelor's Degree in Public Policy. Follow Johnny Green on Facebook and Twitter. Also, feel free to email any concerns.
  • DavidTheExpert

    There is nothing but good news in this article.

    I knew two states voting to legalize cannabis would have a strong impact on the political climate, but I had no idea there would be such an outpouring of good news so very quickly. It’s only been 11 days, and there has been nothing but good news. Good national polling data, rumblings from Mexico, actual politicians joining our side, and no federal reprisal or even threats. A few bits of misinformation dribbling out of Fox News is all we have had to worry about.

    • moldy

      “What’s to stop them from getting all potted up and smoking weed behind the wheel then the next you know is…. oh my, lions and tigers and…?” .. or some silly shit like that! haha

  • GothicProphet

    Great article, but a correction is in order. In The article you state that Washington and Oregon legalized on the same day (November 6th, 2012) when it was Washington and Colorado that legalized.

    • johnnygreen

      Corrected, thanks for pointing that out! I’m from Oregon; I wish we had joined our friends in Colorado and Washington!

      • GothicProphet

        I’m in “it sucks here” territory and I wish OR had joined CO and WA too! Maybe your legislature will join ME, MA, VT, RI & MO in introducing legislation for legalization during it’s next session. If not, I’m sure your hard working activist community will continue to push initiatives onto the ballot in the coming elections.

      • Johnny oneye

        Lets see how all this works! when the feds react , the first to be challenged!

  • paco27

    thank you all for the hard work and please help ark they are all misinformed by the law maker’s

  • http://www.facebook.com/katjamspecialties Kathleen Haines

    Why should a plant be taxed for consumption? We already pay tax on our food for cripes sake!! Do we put a zip tag on every plant we grow? Hell no!! Just the one single plant government can’t control, it’s everywhere already!, taxing it will just hide the growers. Raise tax on alcohol or cigarettes. Get rid of the marijuana wars..It would save millions of tax dollars fighting them..Not to mention all the people that are in prison for having possessed marijuana and nothing else..Release them! . It’s not free to keep them all incarcerated..Our judicial system would have time for real cases of crime..Just let it go free as it was intended by God. Tax the hell out of something else.

    • GothicProphet

      Every agricultural product available is taxed at the commercial level, Cannabis will not be an exception to that – especially not while it’s still considered to be one of the most dangerous substances on the plant (per the Controlled Substances Act)

      • Johnny oneye

        to what extent? tax on groceries 9% some states.
        Cannabis providers are more than willing to pay taxes and get representation for doing this.
        Governments treat cannabis like some deviant plant and require insane taxes and fees , then when the feds arrest the providers the state falls silent. They dont even return the “fees”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jose-Gonzales/100003694111815 Jose Gonzales

    When is the government going to apologize for all the money they wasted and all the lives they have ruined? Until there is a capitulation from the government, some battles have been won but the war is not over.

  • Silverado

    The question every Washington state pot grower & consumer ought to be asking themselves right this minute about the numerous coming opportunities involving weed is:

    Knowing that pot is (going to soon be) legal here in Washington state, what can I do to profit (legally & ethically) off the plant that has taken up so much of my past time & attention during my 30 something years here in this state being involved with it, now that the “risk” has subsided somewhat and it’s (almost) a new day?? And where truly “the sky IS the limit” just from the simple fact and happenstance of being the first state to legalize?? Who is going to have (and act on) that first great free market idea involving LEGAL MARIJUANA and what’s it going to be???

    For something to think about, here’s what Kerry Lutz of the Financial Survival Network had to say about all of this recently:

    Finally, the US is really getting serious about the War on Drugs. Washington State and Colorado voted through referendum to legalize Cannabis. This sets up a potential 10th Amendment fight with the Feds. FSN has been predicting Marijuana legalization since the 2008-09 Crash. Prohibition ended during the Depression with the election of FDR. A major part of his campaign platform was the repeal of the Volstead Act-18th Amendment. When people are suffering
    economically, they always insist on their pleasure and their means of
    escape. This will be the best thing to happen to state treasuries since
    gambling was legalized. Narco-tourism will become a booming industry in these
    states.

    In addition, smugglers will seek to tranship their products from the
    havens of Colorado and Washington. It’s much safer to start a smuggling run from
    a place where Pot is legal than from a place where you can go to jail if you’re
    caught. As long as these states get their cut, they’re not going to care.
    This will translate in billions in taxes. Their economies will realize
    major windfalls. They’re not going to be advertising these facts,
    but it will be obvious when all the newly minted drug millionaires show
    up in their new Lambos and Maseratis. A wave of legalizations will
    result, far exceeding what’s happened with casino gambling. States might even
    earn more in Pot taxes than on speeding tickets. My advice, Grow West Young
    Man!

    • Johnny oneye

      The FEDS are being forced to react! They can ignore the states and that would send a message to other states setting up the dominoes!
      OR they will shut it down commando style!
      Could this be labelled A CIVIL WAR?
      lets see where she blows!

  • K

    I dont know if “legalizing” is a good thing or not, seems like the old bait n switch. Still feels a long way from freedom. I get all the pot I want now without this legalization so the only difference to me personally is now I will have the right to pay tax on it.
    Only in America!! HHHHahhahaahhhhaa!!

    • Sean

      So you like people going to jail for weed? If that’s how you really feel about legalization, then what business do you have being around weed?

      • Johnny oneye

        Legalize/decriminalization is semantics but here in Cali Schwarzenegger decrim 1 oz years ago , no jail but loss of constitution rights just the same! search/siezure

        • Sean

          I disagree. There is a world of difference between legalization and decriminalization. Decriminalization doesn’t take away the black market and decriminalization means that there are still legal sanctions against people who interact with the plant, So it’s not semantics as you say. I want to buy legally, not from some lack market thug who couldn’t care less if I go to jail for weed.

          • Sean

            spelling error: *black

      • K

        I just dont think any plants should have to be legalized period. Legalize tomatoes??green peppers?? squash?? just my opinion take for what it worth to ya.

        • GothicProphet

          I agree that we shouldn’t have to legalize (remove the criminal penalties) from any plants, but sadly reality is a different place than the land of dreams and we find ourselves in a situation where we have to clean up the mess from the Nixon administration (CSA).

        • Sean

          That’s a silly comment on your part. Noboody goes to jail for tomatoes and squash.

    • Johnny oneye

      Im on that page!
      when the state run weed comes out will Monsanto be involved?
      Tabbacco,Pharma ?
      Does anyone remember the big cheese logs given to folks?
      Velveeta!
      maybe they will hire us old people ,
      Veterans should run these shops!
      Jobs for US!

      • Sean

        I agree with your sentiments about old people, veterans and buying American. Everything else, not so much. I believe that there will be micro groweries just as there are micro breweries. Monsanto is not going to take your weed away.

  • disenchantedwithpolitico

    I was a patient in Rhode Island for my chronic migraines. They would last days, then I’d and vaporize because no other options work. However, compassion centers have stalled for a remarkable four years. I gave up, nothing else works, but don’t want to be labelled a criminal by supporting the black market. I haven’t used it for over a year. I just suffer through it. At least I’m not a “bad” person anymore, right? RI mm program has been an astounding letdown, not because of the people like Ajello that fought so hard for it, but for weak politicians who are puppets to their donors.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alyson.shuck Alyson Shuck

    Well said Kathleen!!