In Their Own Words: Peter Kilmartin

What are the chances Rhode Island will be the first New England state to proceed with cannabis taxation and regulation?
While there is a push by proponents in all New England states to legalize recreational marijuana, it is my hope that Rhode Island does not go down that path. There are too many unknowns associated with legalizing recreational marijuana, which in essence is a whole new industry. The Massachusetts Senate Special Committee on Marijuana recently issued a report citing public health, public safety and economic and fiscal concerns with legalization of marijuana in that state. In addition, the Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and Attorney General Maura Healey and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh are all opposed to legalizing marijuana in that state.
While I am personally opposed to the legalization of recreational marijuana, if policymakers in this state want to proceed with it, I urge them to move slowly and take a “wait and see” approach. We are still learning many lessons from those states that have legalized recreational marijuana. In fact, those states that have legalized marijuana are still learning from the experiment, making changes each year to the program to address dangerous unintended consequences.
Would legalization make the job of the police easier or harder?
Without question, legalization will make the job for law enforcement more difficult.
I am concerned that under legalization, more drivers will be operating a motor vehicle under the influence of marijuana, and there is currently no equivalent test for an alcohol breathalyzer for law enforcement to use. In addition, states that have legalized marijuana have seen a spike – not a decline – in the black market of marijuana due to significant profits to be gained from meeting demand, as well as the ease of growing marijuana and the difficulty law enforcement would face in enforcing home growing limits.
Recently, the United States Attorney and my office announced the arrest of several individuals who caused explosions due to BHO production, killing one person and injuring others. States that have legalized recreational marijuana have also seen a significant increase in BHO lab explosions, despite laws prohibiting them.
Unregulated production of BHO in our communities is a significant public safety problem, putting families, neighbors and the general public at risk. It is dangerous and can be deadly, as it was with the BHO lab explosion last year in South Kingstown. The increased production and use of BHO is yet another example of how our existing marijuana laws and regulatory structure has led to dangerous unintended consequences. We need to get a handle on this problem now, before more lives are lost, by giving law enforcement the tools they need to investigate and shut down these death labs. That is why I filed legislation that would prohibit extracting THC from marijuana using a flammable liquid, the method used in making BHO. The legislation would allow compassion centers to extract THC using a flammable liquid only within rules and regulations to be promulgated by the RI Department of Health.
How would marijuana legalization impact the heroin epidemic and the use of other illegal drugs?
Opioid abuse and addiction crisis in Rhode Island can be attributed to, in great part, over prescription of opiates
by healthcare professionals and the

cheap cost of heroin. However, there is no scientifically recognized evidence that legalizing recreational marijuana would reverse the numbers of those addicted to opioids.
What scientists and the medical community can agree on is that marijuana has a significant impact on the development of the brain. Youth marijuana users face serious health and brain development risks. Rhode Island already owns the dubious distinction of high rates of marijuana use by youth. And, youth users of marijuana are more likely than their peers to become addicted to other harmful substances like opioids.
While the proponents of legalization insist marijuana use will be for adults only, it is a naïve and convenient answer to a question they don’t want to answer: How do we ensure youth do not have access to or use marijuana?
Do you think marijuana legalization should be decided by lawmakers or public referendum?
If Rhode Island policymakers choose to go down the path of legalization, and it remains my hope they will not, I believe it is a matter that is best be decided by the General Assembly. A referendum would open up the state to an influx of out-of-state interested parties to throw millions of dollars at a campaign to convince voters to support legalization.
Are there any legal industries in our state that would be hurt by the legalization and taxation of marijuana?
One area that I am concerned with is how businesses would handle employees who are under the influence of marijuana. Much like drunk driving, it would be difficult for an employer to dismiss someone from work without a means to prove they are under the influence. It could open up a wealth of legal issues for employers of all

Another area of concern is the impact on property values. If a marijuana grow or cultivation moves into the neighborhood, what will it do to property values? We have examples here in RI where rental properties are virtually destroyed due to a marijuana grow in the residence. What rights will homeowners have should the state legalize recreational marijuana?
To that extent, what rights will cities and towns have if they would like to opt out of legalization of recreational marijuana? The proposal being put forth by Regulate RI would not allow cities and towns to opt out of allowing marijuana businesses in their respective communities. Shouldn’t our cities and towns have a say if they want to allow an expansion of marijuana in their community?
What do you think of the governor’s proposal to tag and tax each plant grown for medicinal purposes?
I have been, and continue to be, a supporter of the use of medicinal marijuana for those Rhode Islanders who suffer from debilitating conditions. Throughout my administration, I have worked to provide greater safeguards to inhibit those who take advantage of this program for their own financial benefit through black market diversion and to ensure that marijuana cultivations are maintained safely. I commend Governor Raimondo for acknowledging that Rhode Island’s medical marijuana program, especially the caregiver model, needs to be strengthened.
However, I am concerned about the financial implications to those patients who are suffering from and paying for the medical treatment of debilitating diseases. Any change to the medical marijuana program should keep costs to the patients in mind.

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