Former Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy has devoted much of his time, since stepping down in 2010, to mental health concerns. Now, Reuters reports, a new, related crusade: he's leading the liberal opposition to the legalization of marijuana.
Kennedy's new advocacy group is called SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana).
UPDATE: It appears that the prime concerns with the bill were technical. Those issues are being worked through. State Representative John Edwards, chief sponsor of the measure, tells me he's still hoping for a vote on the measure tonight. If the vote doesn't happen tonight, sources say, it seems likely to happen in the next couple of days.
The Rhode Island House and Senate are both poised to approve legislation tomorrow that would decriminalize possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.
The long-term prospects of the legislation always seemed good. The House and Senate bills enjoy broad support in their respective chambers. And a January poll commissioned by the Washington-based Marijuana Policy Project showed 65 percent of Rhode Island voters backing the measures.
Actually, there's nothing criminal about Matt Jerzyk. Not since he cut off that ponytail, anyway. I was just smooshing together our two main features in this week's Phoenix.
Jerzyk is a (formerly ponytailed) activist-turned-insider: a lefty bomb thrower and shrewd political organizer who now holds a key post in Providence Mayor Angel Taveras' administration.
In the face of new legislation that would make state-sanctioned medical marijuana dispensaries or "compassion centers" smaller than originally envisioned, Rhode Island US Attorney Peter Neronha - who warned of a crackdown on the planned dispensaires last year - says that his position has not changed His statement in full, issued this morning:
Rhode Island medical marijuana advocates are hailing new legislation that would pave the way for state-sanctioned dispensaries or "compassion centers" to finally open their doors, but they have some concerns about the bills as presently written.
Last year, amid threats of a federal crackdown, Governor Chafee blocked the dispensaries from opening.
I've got a cover story in today's Phoenix about Rhode Island's tricky shift to what I call Medical Marijuana 2.0.
After a threatened federal crackdown, Governor Lincoln Chafee put the kibosh on three planned pot dispensaries in September. Since then, medical marijuana advocates have been trying to figure out the shape of the next phase - and it's just started to come together in recent days.
Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee and Washington Governor Chris Gregoire announced today that they have filed a petition with the Drug Enforcement Agency asking for reclassification of marijuana from a Schedule 1 drug - on par with dangerous substances like heroin - to a Schedule 2 drug. The idea is that doctors could then prescribe marijuana for medical use.
Lincoln Chafee's announcement yesterday that he would refuse to license three medical marijuana dispensaries hit pot activists hard. But it was not unexpected.
Some quick background, here. The General Assembly approved a dispensary law in 2009 and the state selected three would-be operators. But then US Attorney Peter Neronha, like several US Attorneys around the country, penned a letter warning that the feds would crack down on largescale distributors authorized by state government.
Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey, was among a handful of governors nationwide who backed off their states' medical marijuana programs for a time in the face of tough-on-pot rhetoric out of the Obama Administration this spring. But today, he announced that he will get to work on implementing the program right away.
I'll have a piece in tomorrow's Phoenix about the state of Rhode Island's "compassion center" program.
The Obama Administration has warned officials here and across the country about a possible crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries. US Attorneys have sent sharply worded letters to governors and state legislators to that effect.
Attorney General Eric Holder is in town today, hosted by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. And a brief press conference at the Institutue for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence in Providence was, predictably, dominated by questions about medical marijuana.
U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha delivered a letter to Governor Chafee in late April threatening to prosecute operators of the three medical marijuana dispensaries, or "compassion centers," set to open in the coming months.
Call it the triumph of good ol' Rhody provincialism.
The Rhode Island Department of Health has selected three applicants to open medical marijuana dispensaries, or "compassion centers." And among them is Seth Bock, a well-trimmed acupuncturist who plans to open a center in Portsmouth. He was featured in a story I wrote a few weeks back on marijuana going mainstream in Rhode Island
I've got a cover story in this week's Phoenix, due to hit the newsstands tomorrow, on the medical marijuana movement's liminal moment.
The arrival of compassion centers means medical pot is about to take a huge, transformative leap into the mainstream. And while most in the movement welcome the change - it should mean greater access to marijuana and no more skulking about for black-market weed - there is a touch of ambivalence about what will be lost: an underground, DIY culture that, in its best form, is quite generous and neighborly.