Rhode Island AG’s forum considers issues of legalizing marijuana


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — At a forum Tuesday at the Brown University Medical Center, Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin hosted members of law enforcement and public policymakers for input and discussion of issues of making recreational marijuana use legal.

Kilmartin told Eyewitness News as the statewide conversation moves forward, certain issues are getting buried and need to be brought to the fore.

“This is a multi-faceted issue,” he said Tuesday. “There are many unintended consequences and if you don’t take all of those into consideration at the forefront, you create more problems down the line.”

Policymakers from Colorado and Washington state spoke on the panel, along with Todd Mitchem of the Coalition for Responsible Cannabis Production, who represents marijuana producers in the industry, and Massachusetts State Senator Jason M. Lewis, who chairs a special senate committee on marijuana in the Bay State.

A video of a butane hash oil operation was shown, to demonstrate how the highly flammable chemical ignites. Colorado’s statistics include more than 30 hash oil explosions since 2014.

Inter-state seizures of Colorado marijuana that was headed to other states also climbed 31 percent over a two-year period.

“Oftentimes it’s pointed to: ‘oh, it’s working in Colorado, look at the revenue.’ And revenue is a big enticement. What they’re not looking at is the cost both monetary and societal. That conversation I haven’t heard in the State of Rhode Island, and that’s part of why we’re doing this today,” said Kilmartin.

Jared Moffat, the director of pro-marijuana Regulate Rhode Island, told Eyewitness News he found the forum one-sided. It failed to adequately address the millions in tax revenue, he said, that would build schools and fund health programs.

“Now that we are moving beyond the question of ‘if’ marijuana should be legal for adults, there are important regulatory questions to address, and it is encouraging to see the state having that conversation,” said Moffat.

Recent state reports have said the revenue from medical marijuana has been lower than expected in Rhode Island.

Medical marijuana advocates have held several rallies at the Rhode Island State House in the past couple months after a line item in Gov. Gina Raimondo’s budget proposed taxes on plants for medical marijuana users and caregivers.

Marijuana remains a Schedule I drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970, though the federal government has stopped actively pursuing marijuana offenses in legalized states that do not involve violence, firearms or cartels.

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