In Their Own Words: Jared Moffat, Director of Regulate Rhode Island

What do you think would be the advantages of being the first state in New England to legalize?

First, there’s historical pride in being a leader on important social issues like this. In 50 years, I think we will look back on marijuana prohibition the same way we look back on alcohol prohibition now. We’ll see that it was a foolish policy, and we’ll wonder why we ever thought it would work. Interestingly, Rhode Island never ratified the 18th Amendment, which established alcohol prohibition.

Second, authors of a recent RAND Corporation report on marijuana policy reform discuss what they call the “first mover advantage,” which is the competitive edge that goes to early adopters in a new regional economy. We’ve seen with other economic sectors: whichever state moves first to establish a foundation in a new regional market will take home a larger share of the economic pie in terms of job creation, tax revenue and new businesses. Those are all things that Rhode Island would greatly benefit from right now. Virtually everyone, even critics, acknowledges that a system of legal marijuana is inevitable, so it makes a lot of sense for Rhode Island to get in front of this and beat states like Massachusetts to the punch. It seems like Rhode Island is always falling behind and trying to keep up with our neighbors, but this is an opportunity to change that narrative and be a driver of a new economy in the region.

What do you think the disadvantages would be?

The only disadvantage I can see is for the criminal marijuana dealers and the drug cartels who will suffer serious profit losses when they are unable to compete with legitimate businesses that produce a safer product in a safer setting.

Ιf cannabis is legalized, what (if anything) would be fair to do about past criminal conviction records for cannabis-related offenses? Should racial and ethnic disparities in criminal justice consequences be taken into account in any way?

It’s no secret that there is a significant racial component to the enforcement of marijuana prohibition in Rhode Island and the United States. An ACLU report looked at 2010 data in Rhode Island and found blacks were nearly three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, even though they use marijuana at the same rate. In some towns, blacks were nearly eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana. I’m very happy that the Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act, which is currently being considered by the General Assembly (please contact your legislators and ask them to support), would allow anyone with a criminal conviction for possession of an ounce or less to expunge that charge from their record. It makes little since to hamper someone’s life opportunities for something that the state now considers legal.

Dealing marijuana is sometimes referred to as a gateway criminal behavior, leading to more criminal behavior. Would you expect to see a decrease in other crime if cannabis is legalized and that “gateway” closed?

On April 1 of this year, a young woman was fatally shot in her car by a man near an elementary school over an ounce of marijuana. Illegal marijuana dealers have no legal way to settle disputes and protect their business, so they sometimes resort to violence. When police conduct raids on illegal marijuana dealers and growers, they are routinely caught with weapons. Just like alcohol prohibition, marijuana prohibition has created a culture of criminality and corruption. The only solution is to undercut that violent, illicit market and establish a legal, regulated market to compete.

Marijuana is sometimes referred to as a gateway drug. Would you expect to see an increase in use of other drugs if cannabis is legalized?

If anything, marijuana’s illegal status is what creates a “gateway” to other drugs for the simple reason that illegal marijuana dealers often have access to other illegal drugs. The same person selling marijuana to student at a Rhode Island high school is likely to try to peddle other drugs, too. Whereas with alcohol, which is regulated, the clerk at a fine wine store doesn’t offer customers a bag of methamphetamine when they check out. Taking marijuana out of the illicit market will separate it from other more dangerous drugs, which I think is another public health reason to support legalization and regulation.

The idea that marijuana is a “gateway drug” that somehow makes people crave harder and harder substances has been debunked many times in the scientific literature. Most famously, a White House-commissioned study by the Institute of Medicine found that marijuana “does not appear to be a gateway drug to the extent that it is the cause or even that it is the most significant predictor of serious drug abuse; that is, care must be taken not to attribute cause to association.” You can simply look at the drug survey data and see that roughly 50% of Americans try marijuana at some point, but only very small percentages of Americans have tried other drugs like cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines. The vast majority of people who try marijuana don’t ever use these other drugs.

Moreover, claims about marijuana being a gateway make no sense in the context of medical marijuana: Patients often use marijuana instead of highly addictive prescription medicines like morphine and OxyContin. Medical marijuana is a safe alternative for patients whose other options are not as reliable or effective.

A recent study conducted by a Brown University research team surveyed a group of 200 medical marijuana patients in Rhode Island and found that nearly 60% of them reported substituting marijuana for prescription narcotics they were taking. Another recent national study found that states with medical marijuana laws had 25% fewer opioid overdose deaths than states without medical marijuana.

Read what Nancy DeNuccio of Ocean State Prevention had to say. 



In Their Own Words: Nancy A. DeNuccio, Ocean State Prevention

What do you think would be the advantages of being the first state in New England to legalize?

I do not think there would be any advantages to Rhode island becoming the first state in New England to legalize recreational marijuana.

What do you think the disadvantages would be?

Disadvantages outweigh the advantages.  The verdict is not in on the impact of legalization of recreational marijuana in the states that have implemented this law.  Early data indicates an increase in drugged driving, youth access, increased black market activity, increased school suspensions,  emergency room visits from edibles and the list goes on from Colorado. Rhode Island does not have to implement this law now. Prudence would have the state wait for more concrete data to come from the few states that have launched these laws. Unintended consequences have already become apparent in Colorado. Advertisements and edibles seem targeted to youth. I worry that Big Marijuana (like Big Tobacco in the 1990s) is behind much of this movement. Rhode Island already has the dubious distinction of being number one in marijuana use in the 12- 25-year-old category (NSDUH 2014) and our youth treatment admissions for marijuana surpass any other drug or alcohol treatment admissions. Rhode Island is also eight years into legalized medical marijuana and the state is having a very difficult [time] regulating that use. How can our communities trust that recreational use will be any better regulated? The dangers from Butane Hash Oil manufacturing threatens the safety of our communities. Proponents of legalized recreational marijuana rally behind the cry that by regulating this drug youth will be better protected. Where is the data supporting that claim? The Partnership Attitude Tracking Study: Teens and Parents, 2013 surveyed US high school students and indicated, marijuana legalization would likely increase use among teens who already use marijuana. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of teens who reported using marijuana at least once in their lifetime said that legalizing the drug would make them more likely to use it. In addition, more than three-fourths (78%) of heavy marijuana users reported that legalizing the drug would make them more likely to use it. Only 16% of teens who reported that they had never used marijuana agreed that they would be more likely to use marijuana if it were legal. According to the authors, “One possible scenario suggested by these data is that even if legalization does not drive up overall prevalence of teen marijuana use, it may lead to increased use among those already using, including teens who are already smoking marijuana almost daily (http://www.cesar.umd.edu/cesar/cesarfax/vol22/22-26.pdf).”

That kind of information is what really scares me. Today’s marijuana is not what was used in Woodstock in 1969. These are just some of my concerns about the disadvantages of legalizing recreational marijuana.

If cannabis is legalized, what (if anything) would be fair to do about past criminal conviction records for cannabis-related offenses? Should racial and ethnic disparities in criminal justice consequences be taken into account in any way?

According to the RI Attorney General’s Office, there are no criminals in our local prisons whose sole charge was a minor cannabis-related offense, so I don’t think that this would be a big issue in Rhode Island.  Racial and ethnic disparities should never be a part of criminal justice consequences.

Marijuana is sometimes referred to as a gateway drug. Would you expect to see an increase in use of other drugs if cannabis is legalized?

The concept of marijuana as a gateway drug could be argued for a long time, but suffice it to say that there are very few people in recovery who would not make the link with marijuana being their entry into addiction. More research needs to be done on addiction and how family history comes in to play. I can’t comment on further expectations of an increase in other drug use. I do know that there are no state dollars spent on substance abuse prevention and if recreational marijuana were legalized, the work of my prevention colleagues would be increased.

Read what Jared Moffat of Regular RI had to say. 




The Colorado 420 Tour

One of our contributors took a 420 bus tour during a recent trip to Colorado. Read about her experience. 

We land at Denver International Airport and friends from college pick us up. The driver hands my boyfriend a rolled joint she bought for his arrival.

They drive us to the Crown Plaza where I am surprising him with a 420 Tour, the first cannabis-friendly tour company advertising 420 friendly hotel rooms, dispensary tours, vacation packages and cooking classes (my420tours.com). I ask the hotel desk clerk where I sign up for the tour and she points me to two people in green t-shirts with brochures at a table in the coffee shop. We head to the table and I give them our names. My boyfriend looks at me confused. I hand him the brochure and say, “Happy Birthday!”

A friend meets us there. We show our IDs  (you have to be 21), sign waivers and are invited to get on a 40-passenger bus with smoked windows that looks like a typical limo party bus. The people on board are passing a large joint around. My boyfriend and I find a seat, introduce ourselves and imbibe. The tour guides, Jenny and Mike, show up and give us an intro to our next five hours: Drink lots of water because of the altitude, eat edibles with care (10mg to start, if not an every day user of cannabis) and have a good time legally smoking pot on the bus.

Our first stop is a dispensary called Le Conte’s Clone Bar and Dispensary, on the outskirts of Denver. The building looks like something out of a 1950s western and the storefront sign is green neon. The guide tells us that the store’s manager will welcome us, provide an overview and announce specials for those of us on the tour.

It’s like the manager is speaking Greek. “Fifty percent off any ¼ oz of flower; purchase 2 grams of wax or shatter, get 50% off the go-pen; buy 2 OpenVape cartridges, and get a free o-Pen.” He tells us it is okay to take pictures. The inside looks like an old bar converted into a store. The recreational customers (us) come in through the front, show IDs and head into a roped-off line to meet with one of three cashiers. On our right is a counter loaded with clones, or plants.  Each one is labeled with its type. They are guaranteed for 30 days and cost $15 a plant for medical customers, and $30 for recreational. The medical customers enter through a door on the side of the building and head to a back room designated for people with medical cards.

We get waited on by the budtender and feel like kids in a candy store because we really have no idea what to buy for our week in Denver. I suggest we purchase some regular old pot, and we end up buying two eighths, the OG Stomper and the Chem Geisal. One is an indica and the other is a sativa. Sativa is the “upper” of pot and Indica is the “relaxer.” The bud tender explained, “If you had stuff to do, smoke the energetic/active Sativa and if you want to chill on the couch at the end of the day, smoke the Indica.” Sativa is more heady while Indica is more body high, and they also sell hybrids of all of this. We also bought some brownies and a glass bowl. Because we were on the tour, we got the second eighth for a penny.  You can’t beat that price. An eighth cost us $40. Tourists (or non-Colorado residents) can only purchase a quarter at a time.

We get back on the bus and head to the manufacturing plant, owned by Le Conte’s. We enter a small reception room and put on badges, and are told that we can take pictures but cannot step into any of the grow rooms due to pests. Humans apparently can give cannabis plants mites and other diseases. We enter a long hallway with rooms on each side. Each room contains different sets of plants at a different stage in the grow cycle.

We talk in detail with the two managers giving the tour about the different career opportunities in the industry. Our friend, who has moved to Denver, is looking for part-time work and we discuss her being a trimmer.  It sounds to me that trimmer is on the low end of the cannabis industry jobs, but that is how one gets their foot in the door.

We get back on the bus and head to a glass shop/museum filled with hundreds of pieces of pipes. One pipe costs over $10,000. The 420 Tour stops for lunch at a taco place before heading back to downtown Denver for our final dispensary stop at Native Roots (nativeroots303.com), which has five locations around Colorado.

You enter a waiting room, much like a doctor’s office, and get called in one at a time as the budtenders become available. At this shop, my boyfriend learns about vape pens for cannabis oil. The special for the 420 tour is to purchase a container of oil, called canna sap, and get a pen for a penny. We also purchase chocolate candy, the Blue Kudu and hard candy here. My friend and I talk at length with the budtender about Foria, a sexual spray for women made with coconut oil and cannabis.  It’s described as “a cannabis-infused sensual enhancement oil designed for female pleasure. Foria is hand-crafted from the female flower of the marijuana plant — one of the oldest known aphrodisiacs in the world — using modern extraction techniques for optimal potency and purity.” I decide it’s too pricey to only purchase it for the vacation, since bringing it home would be considered illegal.  The budtender raves about it (foriapleasure.com/pages/about-colorado).

The bus ends up back at the Crown Plaza, at 4:20pm, and the tour guides invite everyone to the roof where they allow public consumption.  A fitting end to a highly educational day.

Hemp and the Freedom to Grow

“The greatest service which can be rendered any country is to add a useful plant to its culture.” -Thomas Jefferson.

It’s ironic that the country founded on the principals of liberty and freedom still prohibits its citizens from growing a plant. I’m talking, of course, about industrial hemp. A plant that has more than 30,000 uses and is considered a superfood. Even more absurd is the fact that hemp is imported from other countries, but growing it in America is forbidden.

Did you know that the US Constitution was written on hemp paper? The first American flag was made out of hemp. In the past, army uniforms were made of hemp. In 1937 Popular Science Magazine called hemp “The New Billion Dollar Crop.”

And then it was banned.

Federal laws against hemp are a prime example of how our government stifles our freedom. Under the Controlled Substance Act of 1970, hemp and marijuana are classified exactly the same. To the untrained eye, I can see how the plants might seem similar. However, industrial hemp contains less than 1% of THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana. Therefore, it would take a joint the size of a telephone pole to get any effect from hemp.

Farmers should be outraged. Hemp farming requires little or no pesticides. Hemp also requires less water than other crops, and has deep roots that leave the soil in an improved condition after harvesting. This makes hemp one of the best possible crops for a farm to put in rotation.

Consumers also should be outraged. Hemp retail sales in the US are estimated to be over $420 million annually; that’s $420 million from a product we are forced to import. America is in need of jobs, yet we continue to dismiss this possible market. With the decriminalization of industrial hemp, thousands of employment opportunities could be created in agriculture, marketing, distribution, sales and manufacturing.

The fact that we have to be granted permission to grow a plant is an insult to our freedom. The criminalization of industrial hemp must come to an end.

Medical Marijuana Patients Concerned About Senate Bill 791

We talked to The Rhode Island Patient Assistance Coalitions’ JoAnne Leppanen about a proposed bill in the Senate that has a lot of caregivers and medical marijuana patients concerned. She not only shared their concerns, but gave us a quick history of medical marijuana in RI.

“The original legalization of medical marijuana was really an act of compassion on the part of the legislature,” says Leppanen. Yes, recreational users were getting arrested – but so were patients for whom the drug provided a sometimes life-altering treatment option. “It was a big deal in 2006, when it became legal for licensed patients to use marijuana,” she explains. There was an awkward period during which use was legal, but selling or purchasing was not. “Where were they supposed to get it?” asks Leppanen, pointing out that not everyone has the skills to grow their own.

So the legislature decided to allow caregivers – people who could grow for a small number of patients. These caregivers are licensed, over 21, without criminal records, and act only with the consent of their patients. As described by Leppanen, these caregivers are usually drawn to the opportunity to alleviate suffering, and are especially valued by patients whose conditions may make it hard for them to travel, communicate or take on jobs with health insurance.

“We have some phenomenal caregivers who really help their patients,” she says, describing caregivers who pursue much smaller margins – or no margins – to help patients in particularly challenging situations.

These caregivers would all be made immediately illegal if Senate Bill 791 were to pass. This bill proposes that only licensed growers would be allowed to grow cannabis. Before you say, “that could make sense,” the bill further suggests that there be only two licensed growers in the state, and that they could only sell to licensed compassion centers (currently three in RI). These two growers would apply for state licenses – but why only two, and why it seems a good idea to grant these two what amounts to a state-approved monopoly is unclear. Could it be to position them for a future, post-legalization market?

Leppanen declines to speculate – especially when it comes to any discussion of legalization. “We’re about the medical care and supporting those whose medical conditions are effectively treated by cannabis,” she says. “This bill would undermine the most basic tenet, the primary intent of the medical marijuana program. The compassion centers are great – there’s definitely a crucial role that they fill – but many of the patients who greatly need medical marijuana are on SSDI or disabled. Their income is limited, and there is no third-party reimbursement for medical marijuana. A compassion center has overhead and employees – it has to run like a business. It can’t provide the same attention, the same prices, the same access for those who can’t get to centers, and the same room for individual grace that caregivers can. Caregivers are the unsung heroes of the medical marijuana movement,” she explains. And this bill would end them.

“So … why, exactly, do we need this,” she asks, “and who would it help?”

The bill has not passed the Senate Judicial Committee and has no corresponding bill in the House – two steps that would be necessary before the legislature could vote on it. But there seems to be some heavy lobbying support behind it, and a cadre of senators backing it.

You can learn more at ripatients.org, where they include links to the proposed statute itself.

Phillipe and Jorge’s Cool, Cool World: Traffic Snarls, Political Fools and Art Makes Everything Better

Newport Nightmares

Ah, Newport. Sailing Capital of the World. City by the Sea. Rhode Island’s #1 tourist attraction. And seemingly determined by state and local pols and planners to make a visit there as unpleasant as possible.

P&J refer to the ill-conceived need for a median strip on the Newport Bridge, an overreaction of the first order. The bridge has been reduced to one lane in both directions as of April 6, and the eastbound lanes’ EZ Pass lane was closed, which has resulted, by the RI Turnpike and Bridge Authority’s own calculations, to warrant an hour’s delay in the morning and evening commutes. Some fun, eh kiddies? P&J have seen this backup firsthand, and have considered doing roadside gun stands at both ends of the bridge for those drivers who want to buy a Glock or Sig Sauer and simply put a bullet in their heads as they try to get to work before noon, or home before “Jeopardy” ends. (And if you want to see a real car bomb go off, if there are still lane restrictions on May 5, the day festivities for the Volvo ocean sailing race begin, which Newport officials have humped harder as an attraction than Disney does Orlando or Walter White did crystal meth, expect fireworks galore.)

RITBA officials claim all this work will be done by May 1. Why not? Who has ever heard of a major construction project in Little Rhody going over its projected deadline or costing more than anticipated? (Take a bow, former governor Ed “Gerber Baby” DiPrete, whose state contract to build the new Jamestown Bridge not only ran over time-wise and cost-wise, but didn’t have a clause saying that the contractors would pay for lateness, and instead left the great unwashed of Vo Dilun on the hook for the massive cost overruns. Full gainer into that Dumpster, Gerb.) So keep bringing those Indonesian pee bottles with you folks, and don’t expect to get across the Bay in less than 60 minutes.

Worse is all the construction roadwork being done on Broadway in Newport, which for many is the only way into town unless you know the back routes — and even some Newporters don’t. The town planners did this to Washington Square businesses two years ago at the height of the tourism season. P&J pointed out that restaurant owners such as Biggie Korn at Yesterday’s would have been acquitted of murder of town officials on grounds of justifiable homicide as people avoided the downtown eating establishments as if they were selling Ebola on a bun at food carts.

P&J suspect it is only fitting that the “Scenic Newport” exit off the Newport Bridge empties onto yet another one-lane road named Farewell St, which fittingly runs between two cemeteries. (Geddit?) Stack the empty coffins by the gates, folks, we’re sure they will be quickly accommodated if all these construction woes continue.

Monster Raving Loonies 

The race is on. US Senator Ted Cruz announced his bid to become the Republican Party’s presidential candidate in 2016, and we can bet Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann and Donald Trump feel upstaged. But it was nice to know Mitt Romney has tacitly acknowledged his insanity by offering to have an exhibition boxing match with former heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield. (“Just don’t muss up my hair, Evander.”)

Back in the 1960s, a titled and barking mad aspiring politician in England who called himself Screaming Lord Sutch, who put out unlistenable albums at his own expense and drove a Rolls Royce painted like the Union Jack, ran for office under his own Monster Raving Loony Party banner. Well, I am sure the Republicans can counter the emergent Tea Party with another allied wing called the GOP Monster Raving Loony Party, which Screaming Lord Sutch would appreciate to no end. And leading that parade will undoubtedly be Sen Cruz.

Cruz’s campaign may be the best thing that could happen to the Democratic Party and Queen Hillary. As he plays to an audience of evangelical “Christians,” like he did in his announcement at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University – who’s for grape Kool-Aid, kids? – he is bound to bring out the worst in all of the GOP future contenders during future public appearances and debates. If other potential candidates like the desperate and dim Jeb Bush, Miami Marco Rubio or schoolboy manqué Scott Walker find out they need to grab the ultra-conservative votes to have a chance of winning, they may quickly find God in the worst of ways, all caught on videotape before they have to “walk back” their comments. And the conservative bloc will be important, as none of them are getting the black, Latino or even women’s votes.

“God’s blessing has been on America from the very beginning of this nation, and I believe God isn’t done with Americans,” Cruz said. Well, we are glad to know The Big Sir found time from his global work to specially bless us back in the 1700s. But given this country’s recent behavior, and God botherers like Dubya Bush and now Cruz invoking his name and their direct connection to Him without express written consent of the NFL, maybe we better hope God is done with Americans, or at least looks the other way rather than sending America swarms of locusts or rivers of blood and telling us to keep him out of the discussion.

But Wait, There’s More

Only a week-plus after Cruz declared, self-ordained ophthalmologist Rand Paul threw his tousled toupee into the ring to the sustained applause of no one.

Little Randy urged voters to “take our country back,” when most people didn’t know it had been missing. Must have been smuggled out in a suitcase or shipped to Indiana Governor Mike Pence’s house, where he is hiding it from the eyes of all those faggots and dykes who want to disrupt Hoosier Heaven. (Note: After seeing the smarmy, lying phony Pence on TV, with his “boys regular” haircut promoting the “Freedom of Religion” act (honk!) his state passed, we can only conclude that Indiana is the only state where livestock animals are allowed to vote.)

In fact, our country has been taken by Randy Paul and his political pals in Washington, DC. They have corrupted the democratic process, they lie and steal at a rate that would make Vladimir Putin blush, and care nothing about the general public. So start taking it back from your buddies, Sen. Paul, a loathsome, lying and libertarian phony. Who has let these a-holes command even a minute of our attention? (And the media, who P&J will gladly buy a drink to wash the taste of the  candidates’ nether units out of their mouths – see: Clinton, Bill.) Only 16 more months of this assault on your sense of decency to go. Whee! Buckle up, campers.

STOP THE PRESSES: As P&J go to print, we first learn via Scott MacKay’s blog at Rhode Island Public Radio that former guv Linc Chafee is giving thoughts to a run to be the Democratic party’s presidential candidate in 2016, having formed an exploratory committee. This is kind of like having a colonoscopy just for the fun of it, as far as we read Linc’s chances. But if this is a sign of the future, P&J hope there is a space in the presidential candidate’s parking lot (behind the DC K-Mart – not unlike K Street, but with employees with more ethics at the retailer) for the Dems’ clown car right next to the one driven by Ted Cruz and Rand Paul.  Keep the delusions coming.

Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame Inductions 

The RIMHOF is only in its fourth year, but has grown in leaps and bounds to be what the Providence Journal has described as “Rhode Island’s most fascinating museum” (Providence Journal, May 24, 2014). There are two events this year and they are right around the corner. First, on Mon, April 20 at Bovi’s Tavern on Taunton Ave at 7pm, this year’s jazz inductees, George Masso, Duke Belaire and Bob Petteruti will be honored on stage before the regular Monday night performance by the John Allmark Orchestra (John took over for honoree Duke Belaire whose big band held  court on Monday nights for decades at Bovi’s). The other induction ceremony and concert is on Sun, April 26 at the Hall in Pawtucket’s Hope Artiste Village and next door at The Met. It’s an all-day affair starting at 2pm.

At the Hall will be the unveiling of the exhibits on this year’s inductees followed by the inductions and performances by many of the inductees themselves. At The Met will be a posthumous salute to Nelson Eddy, along with inductions of non-performer Richard “Paco” Zimmer, a legendary tour manager for major bands and the prime creator of one of Rhode Island’s greatest nightclubs, the Center Stage in East Providence. George Wein, founder of the Newport Jazz and Fok Festivals, is also a member of the 2015 class. He unfortunately will not be able to make the ceremonies, but promises to be in RI in the summer where a presentation to him will be made.

As for the performers/musicians, this year we will induct classic ’60s “garage bands” (garage bands with hit records), The Others, The Ascots and George “Georgie Porgie” Leonard. Brenda Bennett, who cut her teeth with the Tombstone Blues Band in the 1960s and continued as a member of Vanity 6 and Apollonia 6 (who worked with Prince) will be inducted in a new “sidemen” category as the Martys, i.e., bassist, Marty Ballou and drummer, Marty Richards, two the of the busiest sidemen in the business who have worked with jazz, blues and rock acts from the Gary Burton to Joe Perry to John Hammond to Peter Wolf, Roomful of Blues and too many to mention here.

And finally, one of RI’s most popular bands, The Schemers (who morphed into the Raindogs, who will also be honored) and the primary singer/songwriter with these bands, Mark Cutler, will be inducted. All of these bands and musicians will perform sets at the induction ceremony and, for those who care about RI music, this is a “must.” (Disclosure: Jorge, aka Rudy Cheeks, is on the RIMHOF board of directors).

HMS Gaspee

Most Vo Dilanduhs have heard of the Gaspee and its importance in American history (the ship burned in Pawtuxet Cover by angry patriots years before the Boston Tea Party). But to get a fuller view of the whole story — its relation to the slave trade, for instance — see the 51-minute documentary film, Aaron Briggs and the HMS Gaspee by Andrew Stewart, a young Rhode Islander who spent years putting this whole thing together. It is now available through Amazon Instant Video and we highly recommend it.

Photo Essay: Proposed Area for New Paw Sox Stadium in Providence

Lawyer James J. Skeffington took a walking tour Thursday of the former Route 195 land in Providence where he and other owners of the PawSox hope to build a new stadium for the team. Brown University owns a northern parcel of the land, where its Admissions Office is currently located. The southern section had been slated for a public park. Get a better sense of where exactly this parcel of land is and take a look at some pictures taken from the site:

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Regulating Marijuana in Rhode Island: A Public Health and Safety Approach Takes Place to Educate Locals and Leaders

mariAfter a successful week at the midterm ballot boxes, the crusade to end cannabis prohibition seems to be gaining momentum. With victories in Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C., supporters are champing at the bit to see where the next domino will fall. One such domino has been teetering on its edge for the past three years and one of the major forces behind this push is a man named Jared Moffat, director of Regulate Rhode Island.  After a long morning of training and organizing the future advocates of the regulation and taxation movement here in RI, Jared was gracious enough to sit with me and discuss the next big event that he has organized, which takes place at Brown University, 64 College St, List Art Building Room 120 on Nov 18 from 6:30-8:30pm.

David Sorgman: First off, who is Jared Moffat and why has a clean cut kid like you chosen to become involved with the cannabis movement?

Jared Moffat: Cannabis prohibition is a central pillar in the war on drugs, and for several years I have been an active member of the movement to dismantle our failed drug policies that contribute to mass incarceration, the stigmatization of marginalized populations, and terrible violence here and abroad. I have always felt called to organize people to overcome social injustice. So when I saw that we have a real opportunity to remove a cornerstone of the war on drugs by ending cannabis prohibition in Rhode Island, I decided to go for it.

DS: There are a few local organizations that deal with the cannabis topic such as NORML, RIPAC and SSDP. What is Regulate RI and how do you differ from these other groups?

JM: Regulate Rhode Island is a coalition of citizens and organizations working to replace cannabis prohibition with a system to regulate and tax the sale of cannabis to adults. Regulate RI shares a lot of goals in common with those other groups, especially NORML and SSDP, which are both Regulate RI coalition partners. Where we differ is that our mission is solely to pass a law to regulate cannabis like alcohol. We wanted to establish a formidable political force with a very clear focus, drawing support from a broad alliance of groups that come at the issue from different perspectives. We are one of those rare “tri-partisan” political coalitions whose members include leaders from the Libertarian, Republican, and Democratic parties.

DS: What can you tell us about this next event, Regulating Marijuana in Rhode Island: A Public Health and Safety Approach and why have you decided to put this event together?

JM: With the addition of Oregon and Alaska to the list of states that have decided to regulate cannabis like alcohol, the recent elections on Nov 4 showed us that momentum for cannabis policy reform is continuing to grow. Regulate Rhode Island is hopeful that Lil Rhody will become the next state to follow that path. As discussion about cannabis policy reform gains more attention, we wanted to hold an event to educate state leaders and the general public about what it is exactly that we’re trying to do. We cannot rely on sound bytes in the media to adequately convey our message (although Motif does a great job of that!). So there’s a real need to facilitate public discussion about the issue, inform Rhode Islanders about what is happening in states like Colorado, and educate people about the opportunity to regulate cannabis here in Rhode Island.

DS: I noticed that there are some pretty significant names (local and national) on the list of speakers for this event. Who are the individuals and what kind of expertise does each bring to the discussion?

JM: We wanted to choose a diverse set of panelists that could contribute to the discussion about cannabis policy from different angles. From a medical and public health perspective, we have Dr. David Lewis, founder of Brown University’s Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, and Michelle McKenzie, a public health researcher at The Miriam Hospital. Elizabeth Comery is a retired attorney and former Providence police officer. Ms. Comery is also a speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), and she can explain why regulating cannabis is better than prohibition for public safety reasons. Jim Vincent, president of NAACP – Providence, will speak to the harmful consequences of cannabis prohibition for communities of color. Mason Tvert is a nationally recognized advocate for cannabis regulation and was a leader in the successful campaigns to regulate cannabis in Colorado and Alaska. Pat Oglesby is the former Chief Tax Counsel for the US Senate Finance Committee and an expert on cannabis tax policies. And finally, we will have the primary sponsor of the Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act, Senator Josh Miller from Cranston, to explain his proposal and his vision for a regulated cannabis market in Rhode Island.

DS: With so many advocates and a majority of popular support, it seems like regulation and taxation is obviously the people’s choice. However, in Rhode Island we do not have the option of a ballot process to decide an outcome for this issue. Why is that and can you explain what the alternative to this method is?

JM: Rhode Island laws say that only the General Assembly has the power to put a question on the ballot. So unlike other states that allow citizens themselves to put initiatives on the ballot, Rhode Island must go through the state legislature. We believe it makes more sense to put forward a bill to regulate marijuana like alcohol rather than ask the General Assembly for a ballot question. The former option is a one-step process, whereas the latter takes two steps. It is possible that the General Assembly may decide they would rather put the question to the voters, and we would certainly welcome that if they are unwilling to vote on a bill themselves. But we are trying to pass a law directly through the state legislature as our first course of action.

DS: What do you feel are the prospects of RI legislators passing such legislation in this manner?

JM: I am very optimistic about our chances this year. A lot of legislators see the writing on the wall and recognize that the end of cannabis prohibition is inevitable — it’s simply a question of when. They also realize that states like Maine and Massachusetts are very likely to pass ballot initiatives to regulate cannabis like alcohol in 2016. So we have a window of opportunity in 2015 to give Lil Rhody a head start in developing what will soon be a national, multi-billion-dollar legal cannabis economy. If we become an early adopter, that means more businesses will want to headquarter their companies in Rhode Island, which means more jobs and more tax revenue for our state. All of the newly elected state leaders ran their campaign on revitalizing Rhode Island’s economy and regulating cannabis like alcohol is certainly one way to do that.

DS:  Do you think that the victories in Alaska and Oregon will have any influence on the efforts to legalize and regulate cannabis in RI?

JM: Absolutely. It shows that the cannabis policy reform movement is continuing to build momentum and that cannabis prohibition is on the way out. It is especially encouraging to see those results in Alaska and Oregon given that it was a mid-term election when the voting population is typically older and more conservative. These victories show that support for ending cannabis prohibition spans ideological and age divides.

DS: Why should people attend this next event and what can they expect to learn?

JM: We invite anyone who is interested in cannabis policy to attend our event, which we think will be informative and engaging. Each panel will be followed by a question and answer session with the audience, so I would encourage attendees to come with questions and an open mind. In our first panel we are going to have a conversation about why our nation is moving away from prohibition and toward cannabis regulation. We will discuss the social costs of prohibition as well as the various benefits of regulation. The second panel will take a more in-depth look at some specific topics such as cannabis tax policy, the specific provisions of Senator Miller’s Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act, and what we have learned from Colorado’s and Washington’s experiences so far.

DS: How can those who support an end to cannabis prohibition help make this dream a reality?

JM: The most important action people can take is to contact their state representative and state senator and ask them to make ending cannabis prohibition a legislative priority in 2015. It is not enough for legislators to say that they support the issue. We need them to speak out and ensure that our bill gets the vote it deserves on both the House and Senate floors. I would also encourage supporters to join the Regulate Rhode Island coalition by visiting RegulateRI.org, where you can sign up for our email alerts and learn more about the issue. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you Jared, once again, for taking the time to sit with me and discuss the future of Cannabis in Rhode Island. I appreciate your efforts and am honestly baffled that the act of taxation and regulation isn’t already practiced on a national level. With all of the current research, science and testimonials (easily accessed with the creation of a new piece of technology called the “interwebz”) it should be considered a crime against humanity that the government continues to enforce such archaic laws and penalties on the cannabis community.

A Stereotype Guide to Ending Cannabis Prohibition

mjguideWith the midterm elections taking place in November, politicians across the nation have been hitting the campaign trail hard; shaking hands and kissing babies. They are out “trick-or-treating,” looking to discuss the Affordable Care Act, unemployment rates, public assistance and how they need our help to make our communities better places to live (and maybe score some candy).

Now it seems that the latest “posh” Halloween costume for these politicians has come in the guise of the Cannabis Abolitionist. They like to focus on a few staple topics that revolve around preventing access to minors, providing tax revenue and social disparity in the justice system; all topics that weigh heavily on the working class family. Indeed, the lower income demographics are by far the most affected by such social injustices, which are perpetrated by the U.S. War on Drugs. However, I do not believe that this is the demographic that is going to sway public opinion in one way or another, nor do I believe that this is the demographic that is going to make the difference at the polls.

If you look at data collected from the US Government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Data Archive (SAMHDA) and the National Survey on Drug Use and Health from 2012, you can see an extreme contradiction to what cannabis prohibitionists and the government have been telling us for over 75 years. Cannabis is not a low-income, minority based epidemic. Even though marijuana arrest and incarceration rates are disproportionately biased toward minorities, the use of cannabis is equally consistent among white people and spans a multitude of demographics.

Of everyone in the U.S. who has reportedly tried marijuana, 76% are white and only 11% are black. However, when marijuana users are divided by race, whites and blacks have tried it at about the same rate (38-39%). In addition, the relation between cannabis use and different income levels is almost non existent, with 38% of all people who earn less than $75,000 having tried marijuana, compared to 39% of those who earn over that amount. Finally, the age demographic to participate in cannabis use the most is between the ages of 26 and 34, at 55%. Ages 18 to 25 fall close behind at 52%, with 35- to 49-year-olds coming in third, at nearly 50%. Only 37% of those over the age of 50 have ever smoked pot. The gender gap is fairly narrow between males and females as well, with 47% of all men and 38% of all women having tried cannabis. Therefore, attempting to create a generalized profile for those who smoke cannabis becomes quite a challenge, as there is an equal chance that anyone under the age of 50 from any walk of life has smoked pot as there is that they haven’t.

Studying the information gathered from the census reports (as well as exit polls conducted by Edison Research of Somerville, N.J., for the National Election Pool) we can define a more appropriate target demographic for the campaign to end marijuana prohibition. When broken down by race, the voting demographic is directly proportionate to the demographic of those who smoke weed. The white demographic made up 72% of the total vote for the 2012 elections. African Americans made up 13% of the vote, with the hispanic demographic coming in third at 10%. Asians and all other races made up the remaining 5% of the voter turnout. Does this mean that everyone who smoked marijuana voted? I highly doubt it (no pun intended) but it does raise the question, “How can the minority vote be persuaded to become more engaged in the political system?”

I believe this is the reasoning behind a misguided concentration on the minority population, by people advocating an end to prohibition. There has always been an assumption that the minority communities have more of a stake in the cannabis movement because statistics show that they are more likely to be implicated in criminal activities by the authorities. However, this does not in any way represent the majority of the cannabis community. Indeed these communities would benefit the most from such changes to marijuana prohibition, but judging by the voter turnout from past elections, even if this demographic doubled their political involvement toward an end to prohibition, this would not be enough to sway an outcome.

If you take into account the age demographics for past major elections, there is another interesting parallel to be drawn. Voter turnout by age was the highest between 40 – 64 year olds, at 48%.  30 – 39 year olds brought in 17% of the vote, followed by 16% from those over the age of 65. The 18 – 24 year old demographic brought in 11% of the vote, with only 8% coming from the group ages 25 – 29.  The elderly community (as well as that 30 – 39 age group) represent the second highest turnouts for voter activity at the polls.  However, these two demographics represent the lowest groups for those who have actually used marijuana.

I find the elderly demographic to be the most surprising, especially with the major advancements that have been found with cannabis use in the treatment of Alzheimer’s. This is a group that has been molded by more than sixty years of anti-cannabis propaganda and it could be argued that they are likely set in their beliefs. They tend to represent old Republican ideals and come from a generation that has always viewed the use of drugs as an ugly mark on our society.  This generation will eventually be replaced by those 40 – 64 year olds, who dictate the current elections and are not as opposed to the current views and science that surround cannabis use.

Finally, we can review the income demographic that participated in the last presidential election. Voter turnout in 2012 was far higher for those who earned above $75,000 (at 77%) than it was for those who made less than $50,000, which rose from 59% – 62% since 2008. Although there is a significantly larger number of Americans who earn under $50,000 annually, those in the higher income bracket vote in larger numbers.  Because of this fact, the percentage of the actual vote weighs in favor of the wealthy. This higher income demographic is where I see the largest potential to market the legalization campaign in the U.S.

If legalization efforts would provide more of a focus toward those people from higher income brackets, there is a chance that cannabis initiatives could gain some momentum at the polls.  I don’t believe that these initiatives are defeated due to a lack of conviction by those in low income areas or minorities that have been affected by the war on drugs.  I believe that the data, gathered over a multitude of election years, proves that voter participation “is what it is.”  The turnout may fluctuate from election to election, but over a ten year period, there are no consistent trends in any one direction. These figures provide a basic prediction of what to expect through each election and the predominant determining factor tends to be that high income, white people determine election outcomes.

For the cannabis initiative to have the highest success rate, groups need to focus their efforts on demonstrating an appeal to the high-income, white demographic.  To accomplish this goal, the effort will have to demonstrate that there is a proven potential to generate revenue.  Since it’s already been proven through various models of taxation and regulation around the world, including those in Colorado and Washington, there should be a plethora of persuasive information. If presented by the right people (see previous paragraph), there is a chance that those in the $75,000 and up category will finally put their money where their mouths are.

Considering that 39% of this demographic have smoked weed, I would imagine that they wouldn’t have any moral issues with legalization, yet they do not seem to be expressing their views on the ballots. Maybe their views would change if they saw a way to benefit from it? Not only has the marijuana industry generated more new employment opportunities in our staggering economy than any other U.S. industry in the past decade, but there are billions of dollars to be made in this new market. Without the support of the people who can fund these opportunities, the fruits of our labors will never grow.

Not So Great Gatsby: The Diminutive Demon of Dorrance Street 

cianciDear Nick,

Imagine this: a pudgy, tiny, toupee-sporting man hatches a cocaine- and alcohol-fueled plot to recover his divorce settlement money (as much as $500,000) by kidnapping his ex-wife’s friend and extorting the money from him. If the man refuses to comply, the tiny, pudgy, toupee-sporting man will threaten him, then hit him and then promise to kill him, all while a judge and armed policeman stand guard. Then he threatens an elderly Palm Beach socialite’s life when she refuses to lie for him about his ex-wife and the guy the tiny, pudgy, toupee-sporting man held captive. If you are imagining this scene as a Cohen Brothers crime movie starring Danny DeVito as the bad guy, you’d be wrong. This is real life and the bad guy was the mayor of Providence.

Vinny Cianci ran on an “anti-corruption” platform when he first ran for mayor of Providence and successfully got a law passed that made it necessary for any elected official to resign if they are convicted of a felony. A law that came back to bite him after he took a log, an ashtray and a lit cigarette to the man he held captive during the night that should have ended his political career.

Americans love an underdog story, but he was never an underdog. He seeks the spotlight like pigs seek shit, and he is filled with ambition and a sense of entitlement. He is an attorney and the son of a doctor. His is not a rags-to-riches tale. He is a manipulator who takes credit for things he has nothing to do with (Waterfire), and is able to pin blame on others for evils it’s evident he created (the current pension problem). “He’s a compulsive liar. He will say anything and do anything to get credit for things that he had nothing to do with,” says former RI governor Lincoln Almond. Boston Magazine stated  Jon Lovitz’s Saturday Night Live character “The Pathological Liar” was modeled on Cianci.

We also love a redemption story, and if Vinny Cianci’s story had some redemption I would embrace it as well. But he didn’t redeem himself. Some would argue he got worse during his second run, which ended with 30 indictments for him and the conviction of nine of his staff members. Let’s just say that you weren’t indicted on 30 counts and convicted of violating the RICO Act for a minute. If you ran a city and nine of your staff members were convicted of felonies on your watch, you are a terrible administrator.

So this tiny, evil clown of a man is back darkening our doorsteps, once again cooing that he’s never stopped caring. If that were true, then why didn’t he ever try to pitch in and do something selfless for the city in the seven years since he’s been out of prison? He’s barked at folks from the safe distance of his radio show, but what has he contributed to the city he supposedly loves? He is a walking caricature, a poster boy for the failure of recycled personalities and policies and we get the privilege of letting his hubris make Providence a laughing stock one more time. Even his billboard-sized lawn signs are laughably proportional to his monstrous ego and the polar opposite of the stature and integrity he clearly lacks.

Allegedly, he is doing well in the polls. I have thought long and hard about how this is possible, old sport. Providence could be populated with some of the stupidest, easily abused rubes this side of a traveling revival tent show crowd. With the blatant corruption that has eroded the city, one could make a case that the citizens themselves are to blame. The citizens of Providence have been dumb enough to elect him twice already. But I don’t think that is true. I think the people who still stroke this short sociopath’s sizable ego are the vocal minority. The “Jersey Shore” trash that we still see in some pockets of the state are jazzed about his candidacy, hopped up on mob movies and hair gel (I saw three lawn signs for Cianci on Killingly St in Johnston — those morons probably don’t realize they can’t vote for the twice-convicted felon outside of Providence). If they looked past the style of Goodfellas, they would realize the substance of the film is that everyone ended up dead or in jail, and that the gangsters all took from the regular “mooks” and they never ever gave back. Vinny Cianci never stopped caring, but only about the only person he has ever cared about: himself.

Einstein said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting a different result. As you mull that over I will leave you with Vinny Cianci’s own words from the book he wrote:

“I admit that I used jobs as currency to get the support I needed,” he wrote. “I admit I used campaign money for everything from a personal helicopter to get around the state to paying for dinners, and on occasion I even used my influence to do favors for people. I even admit that I rewarded my friends and supporters and punished my political enemies.”

Get Out the Vote,