Should RI legalize marijuana? Commission named to study the question

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island legislative leaders on Wednesday announced they have finalized the list of individuals who will serve on a commission to study whether the state should legalize marijuana.

The General Assembly voted in June to create the 19-member commission, with orders “to conduct a comprehensive review and make recommendations regarding marijuana and the effects of its use on the residents of Colorado and Washington to the extent available, and to study the fiscal impact to those states; and thereafter the potential impact on Rhode Island.”

House spokesman Larry Berman said the commission will hold its first meeting in October. It is supposed to issue its final report by March 1.

Regulate Rhode Island, an advocacy group that has been promoting legalization, urged the commission to concentrate on fact-finding rather than making a recommendation. “That debate must take place in the General Assembly among legislators elected by the people,” argued Matthew Schweich, the group’s director.

Six lawmakers, three from the Senate and three from the House, will serve on the commission: Democratic Sens. Cynthia Coyne and Joshua Miller, Republican Sen. Nicholas Kettle, Democratic Reps. Dennis Canario and Arthur “Doc” Corvese, and Republican Rep. Anthony Giarrusso.

“The potential effects of legalizing recreational marijuana in Rhode Island would have drastic impacts to the fabric of our state and this commission is necessary to determine if those effects would come with positive or negative outcomes,” Canario said when the panel was created.

Berman said the other 13 members are as follows.

Smart Approaches to Marijuana (appointed by House): Nancy DeNuccio, Narragansett

President of Substance Use Mental Health Council of RI: Susan Storti, PhD

Proponent for legalization (appointed by Senate): Michael Beauregard, president of Young Democrats of Rhode Island

Executive Director of RI Medical Society or designee: Steve DeToy, director of government and public affairs, designee

Local chamber of commerce (appointed by Senate): Laurie White, president of Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce

Director of Department of Health or designee: Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott

President of RI Police Chiefs Association or designee: Dean Hoxsie, president

Attorney General or designee: Peter Kilmartin

Medical marijuana patient (appointed by Senate): Julie Lancia, North Providence

Educator (appointed by House): Carol Formica, Middletown Substance Abuse Coalition

Mental Health Professional (appointed by House): Mike Cerullo, Exeter

Criminal defense attorney (joint appointment of House and Senate): John MacDonald, Providence

President of AFL-CIO or designee: Tim Melia, president of Local 328 United Food & Commercial Workers, designee

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook