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All the marijuana bills! UPDATED

March 20, 2012

Jeez. A girl can get confused up at the General Assembly these days, what with all the different bills concerning marijuana.

Here’s a quick primer on the Smith Hill proposals-

1. Legalize it

Senators Rhoda Perry and Josh Miller are the co-sponsors of this legislation (S 2367). The text is 36 pages long, but the aim is simple- make marijuana a legal drug. Then regulate and tax it.

The law limits the sale and use of marijuana to Rhode Islanders that are 21 years old or older (except in the case of minors with medical marijuana cards.) People growing their own marijuana would have to purchase $100 zip ties from the state and wrap them around their plants.

Cultivators without zip ties on their plants would be subject to a fine of up to $500 for an individual plant or up to $1,000 for two or three plants. Folks with permission to grow medical marijuana would be exempt from these restrictions.

The zip ties apply only to small cultivators- Rhode Islanders with three plants or less. The bill has other regulations for retailers and wholesalers. Read the bill if you want to get into those details.

Want to weigh in? The House Judiciary Committee is reviewing the House version (H7582) of the bill tomorrow (Wednesday) afternoon around 5pm in room 313 of the State House.

2. Decriminalize it

Ok, so you don’t feel comfortable with legalizing marijuana? What about preventing folks from going to jail if they have small amounts of the drug? That seems to be the logic of this legislation (S 2253), which is also sponsored by Senators Rhoda Perry and Josh Miller in addition to Senators Jabour, Metts, and Nesselbush.

This bill says if you’re 18 or older and get caught with an ounce or less of marijuana, you’ll have to pay a $150 fine and give up your stash, but you won’t face jail time. Younger marijuana users would have to pay the fine and also enroll in a “drug awareness program and community service” as determined by a judge.

If the fines are unpaid, they can double to as much as $900. The money goes to the city and town where the marijuana user was caught, but 50% of it has to be spent on drug awareness and treatment programs for young people.

Want to weigh in? The House Judiciary Committee is reviewing the House version of this bill (H 7092) in that same 5pm meeting tomorrow in room 313.

3. Help the compassion centers open

I’ve blogged about this legislation before. It’s the bill (S 255) that lawmakers believe will allow the state’s medical marijuana dispensaries to finally open. The legislation addresses fears about the compassion centers growing out of control by letting the Department of Health limit how many plants each store can grow and how much marijuana it can have on site.

In exchange, it lets caregivers (people who grow marijuana for patients) sell their excess crop to the compassion centers if they’re in need of more supply.

Want to weigh in? The House version of the bill (H 7888) is up for consideration by the House Committee on Health, Education, and Welfare next Wednesday, March 28th. The Senate version goes before the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services on the same day at 5pm in room212.

4. Monitor and restrict it UPDATED (Thanks to Amy Kempe for clarifying a few points)

The Providence Journal had an article about this bill in the paper today. It’s a piece of legislation (S 2783)  created by the Attorney General’s office and sponsored by none other than Senator Rhoda Perry (along with some other senators.)

The bill aims to keep a closer grip on the state’s medical marijuana program by-

  • Requiring patients (UPDATE: and caregivers) to be state residents for at least 6 months before they qualify for the program.
  • Allowing no more than two patients or caregivers to grow in the same location. (Preventing co-op style collaborations)
  • Requiring tighter background checks for caregivers. (Now, folks that grow marijuana for patients could be disqualified if they had are  screened using state databases for  felony drug convictions. This bill would screens them for felony drug convictions for any criminal activity using local, state, and FBI databases. Caregivers would also have to pay for the cost of the background checks.)
  • Creates a 24 hour verification program where police can call to see if Rhode Islanders are actually registered patients/caregivers.

The rumor is this bill will change significantly before it makes it to the General Assembly for a vote. I’m hearing that the sponsors of the bill don’t necessarily support it, but want to keep it under their control in order to add significant amendments or sink the legislation altogether. Let’s see if reality supports the whispers.

UPDATE: Go here to read the AG’s summary of the law.

Want to weigh in?  The Senate version of this bill will go to the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services around 5pm in room 212, the same time and place as the compassion center compromise bill.

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Those are all of the marijuana bills I know about. Did I miss anything?

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