Tomorrow the state of Rhode Island’s House is holding hearings on bills that would decriminalize cannabis possession in the state and set up a system of distribution and regulation for the plant. And earlier today the state released the names of the three operators they have chosen to run medical marijuana dispensaries.

They are: Summit Medical Compassion Center in Warwick, The Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center in Providence, and Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center in Portsmouth.

Below is a email alert from MPP on the hearings in RI tomorrow:

PROVIDENCE – Hearings are taking place at the State House tomorrow on bills that would reform the state’s marijuana laws. H 5031 would remove criminal penalties for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and replace them with a civil penalty of $150. The bill is sponsored by Rep. John G. Edwards (D-Tiverton) and others, and would make marijuana possession similar to a traffic violation, allowing people who are convicted of simple, non-violent marijuana possession charges to avoid the life-long stigma of a criminal record. This measure would also save the state millions of dollars on police and court time.

What: Hearing on RI H 5031, Decriminalization of Marijuana Possession

When: “Rise of the House” (~4:30 p.m.), Wednesday, March 16

Where: Room 313, Rhode Island State House

Marijuana Policy Project legislative analyst Robert Capecchi will be present and available for comment. Mr. Capecchi will also be presenting testimony to the House Finance Committee at an earlier hearing to discuss the benefits of H 5591, which would remove criminal penalties for adults who use marijuana and establish a taxed and regulated system for its distribution. This is the second year in a row that Rep. Edith Ajello (D-Providence) has introduced this bill. This hearing will take place in the Trainor Hearing Room (Room 35) at 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, March 16.

The bill would create a system for the regulation and distribution of marijuana to responsible adults in Rhode Island. It would remove the lucrative marijuana market from criminal organizations and allow the state to regulate the sale of marijuana. Taxing and regulating marijuana sales would take away profits from the criminal market, while creating jobs and producing tens of millions of dollars in savings and revenue, according to a report by Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron.

Rhode Island is a good example of the decriminalization/medical marijuana double-barrelled approach favored by many activists. After all, marijuana possession arrests are completely useless when it comes to reducing marijuana use so it’s easy to convince people that we don’t need to waste money on this silly practice, especially in this age of massive budget deficits. And medical marijuana is increasingly recognized as a viable option for sick people across the country, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a reason sick people shouldn’t have that option.

Hopefully events in RI are representative of the winds of change that are finally starting to blow. And if you live in Rhode Island, be sure to let your representatives know your thoughts on these issues.

Joe Klare