Marijuana Legalization Hearing in Rhode Island


Legalizing cannabis is hard. Activists are up against decades of Reefer Madness propaganda, supported by law enforcement and other government agencies and bureaucrats. Ending marijuana prohibition is even more difficult for states without the initiative process. However, progress is being made in states that don’t have the citizens petition process, step by step. When you have to go thru the legislature to legalize cannabis, just getting hearing is a victory that provides the foundation for future success. When it comes to states that will eventually legalize marijuana through the legislative process, Rhode Island is certainly on the short list.

We were happy to receive a press release announcing that the Rhode Island Legislature is holding a hearing for a bill to end cannabis prohibition in the great Ocean State. Please see the press release below from Regulate Rhode Island. Good luck Rhode Island, freedom fighters!

Rhode Island House Judiciary Committee to Hold Hearing TODAY on H 5555; Impressive Lineup of Witnesses Expected to Testify in Support of Regulating and Taxing Marijuana for Adult Use

SEIU New England 1199 becomes latest organization to throw its support behind H 5555; Rhode Island SEIU leader will testify at today’s hearing, along with several doctors, public health researchers, clergy members, civil rights advocates, former law enforcement officials, and political and business leaders

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The state House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing today on a bill that would regulate and tax marijuana for adult use in Rhode Island. The hearing on H 5555 is scheduled to begin at the rise of the House and will take place in the House Lounge.

An impressive lineup of witnesses is expected to testify in support of the legislation, including Rhode Island SEIU State Council Director Emmanuel Falck. The SEIU New England 1199 threw its support behind H 5555 late last week, joining the Rhode Island Criminal Defense Lawyers and the state affiliates of the ACLU, the NAACP, and the Sierra Club. Testimony will also be provided by several doctors, public health researchers, clergy members, civil rights advocates, former law enforcement officials, and political and business leaders. See below for a list of witnesses who will be testifying in support of H 5555.

“Removing marijuana from the criminal market and regulating its production and sale would improve public health and safety,” said Regulate Rhode Island Director Jared Moffat. “It would create good jobs, generate tax revenue, and end an unjust prohibition policy that has disproportionately impacted minority communities. It is not surprising that this legislation enjoys such a broad spectrum of support.”

H 5555, titled the Adult Use of Cannabis Act, would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow one mature marijuana plant in an enclosed, locked space. It would establish the Office of Cannabis Coordination within the executive branch, which would be charged with coordinating among state agencies to establish a tightly regulated system of licensed marijuana retail stores, cultivation facilities, processing facilities, and testing facilities. The measure would also enact a 23% excise tax on retail marijuana sales in addition to the standard 7% sales tax.

WHAT: House Judiciary Committee hearing on H 5555, which would legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana in Rhode Island

WHEN: TODAY, Tuesday, April 11, hearing scheduled to begin at the rise of the House

WHERE: In the House Lounge on the second floor of the Rhode Island State House, 82 Smith Street, Providence

WHO: The following individuals are expected to testify in support of H 5555 in person at the hearing, unless otherwise noted:

Stefano Bloch, Presidential Diversity Postdoctoral Fellow in Urban Studies at Brown University (submitting written testimony)

Steve Brown, executive director of the ACLU of Rhode Island

Elizabeth Comery, former Providence police officer

Dr. James Crowley, past president of the Rhode Island Medical Society

David Dadekian, founder and president of Eat Drink RI (submitting written testimony)

Paul DeFruscio, CEO of Jennifer Rose Associates, a Rhode Island-based small business that creates eco-friendly packaging for marijuana products

Bill Deware, state coordinator for the Rhode Island Progressive Democrats (tentative; may submit written testimony)

Kathryn Duckworth, president of Brown University Students for Sensible Drug Policy

Emmanuel Falk, director of the Rhode Island SEIU State Council

Dr. Michael Fine, former director of the Rhode Island Department of Health (submitting written testimony)

Pat Ford, chairman of the Libertarian Party of Rhode Island (tentative; may submit written testimony)

Collin Geiselman, president of the Rhode Island Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (tentative; may submit written testimony)

Dr. Sean Hagberg, Clinical Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery at the University of New Mexico

Andrew Horwitz, assistant dean of the Roger Williams University School of Law

Rev. James Keller, retired Presbyterian minister

Dr. Brandon Marshall, Manning Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at the Brown University School of Public Health (submitting written testimony)

Michelle McKenzie, public health researcher (tentative; may submit written testimony)

Jared Moffat, director of Regulate Rhode Island

Dr. David Nathan, board president of Doctors for Cannabis Regulation and Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association

James Restivo, representative of the Rhode Island Sierra Club (tentative; may submit written testimony)

Dr. Josiah Rich, Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University (submitting written testimony)

Rev. Harry Rix, retired pastor and mental health counselor (submitting written testimony)

Matthew Schweich, director of state campaigns for the Marijuana Policy Project

John S. Scuncio, former Hopkinton Police Chief and head of the Rhode Island State Police Intelligence Unit (submitting written testimony)

Rev. Jamie Washam, pastor of First Baptist Church in America

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Regulate Rhode Island is a coalition of community leaders, organizations, and residents committed to ending the failed policy of marijuana prohibition and replacing it with a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol. Member organizations include the Rhode Island NAACP, Rhode Island ACLU, Rhode Island Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Rhode Island Working Families, Rhode Island Sierra Club, Rhode Island Young Democrats, Clergy for a New Drug Policy, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, and the Marijuana Policy Project, among others. For more information, visit

Carl Wellstone
About Carl Wellstone 47 Articles
Carl is a cannabis activist from Oregon