Marijuana legislation to be debated at State House today
1:13 PM Wed, Mar 16, 2011 Philip Marcelo PROJO
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Two key committees of the state House of Representatives on Wednesday will take up a host of proposals regulating marijuana. One bill, sponsored by Rep. Edith H. Ajello, D- Providence, would legalize, regulate and tax the drug. Another bill, sponsored by Rep. Rene Menard, D-Lincoln, would tax the soon-to-be-opened medical marijuana dispensaries that will be licensed and regulated by the state to grow and sell the drug. And still another bill, submitted by Rep. John G. Edwards, D-Tiverton, would decriminalize possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, making it a civil offense subject to a $150 fine. Consideration of the bills, a number of which have been introduced in years past, come close on the heels of two significant developments in the state-sanctioned medical marijuana industry. Last Tuesday, Governor Chafee unveiled his first budget, proposing a surcharge equal to 4 percent of a compassion center’s “net patient revenue” as well as a new 6-percent sales tax on the retail sale of medical marijuana. The governor estimated the state can generate more than $1.35 million in new revenue from the proposed marijuana taxes and surcharges in the fiscal year that begins July 1. This Tuesday, the state Department of Health announced the first three recipients of a state license to open a marijuana dispensary. The applicants were chosen among 18 other non-profit organizations. The House Finance Committee will take up Ajello and Menard’s proposals at a hearing at 1 p.m. The House Judiciary Committee will take up the Edwards proposal and four other marijuana-related bills following the regular afternoon House session at 4 p.m. Among those four other bills, which have all been submitted by Rep. Roberto DaSilva, D-East Providence, are proposals to give landlords the right not to lease an apartment to a person who intends to grow medical marijuana and a proposal to make a second offense of possession of marijuana a misdemeanor.