Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Oregon, Rhode Island join trend toward marijuana decriminalization, industrialization of hemp

Rhode Island has already legalized the sale of marijuana to sick individuals and now the state has authorized a nine-member commission to further study decriminalization of the drug. Meanwhile, Oregon last week joined 15 other states with legislation that permits the growth and sale of industrial hemp.

Rhode Island lawmakers are hopeful that the commission will shed new light on the “experience of individuals and families sentenced for violating marijuana laws” and the experience of people in places where marijuana sale and possession has been largely decriminalized, Katherine Gregg reports for The Providence Journal. The panel is examining whether marijuana use among youths and adults in the state has decreased since it was made illegal in 1918, and to see how imposing a “sin tax” of $35 per ounce of marijuana could increase state revenue.

California and Massachusetts have already passed legislation supporting what state Sen. Joshua Miller, a backer of the Rhode Island panel, calls “a national trend toward decriminalization.” In oregon, the growth of hemp for marijuana had been outlawed since 1970, but state Sen. Floyd Prozanski said in backing the recent bill, "Industrial hemp is an innovative crop that is regaining its popularity across the globe," the Statesman Journal reports. (Read more on Rhode Island here, on Oregon here)

UPDATE: Al Tompkins reports for the Poynter Institute that some states are looking at potential revenue from marijuana use. In California, the Marijuana Policy Project says the legalization and taxation of recreational use of the drug is a way to mitigate the state’s $26.3 billion budget deficit. Advocates estimate that a marijuana tax would raise $1 billion – enough to pay the salary of 20,000 teachers. (Read more)

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