To the editor:
Congratulations to our town leadership, and this community as a whole. A little more than a year ago I began a campaign to change the zoning in Warren to allow and regulate the growing of medicinal cannabis (marijuana).
After long debate and informative meetings the Planning Board and Town Council have approved language from the town solicitor which will be up for public input at the nextcouncil meeting. For the past 11 years Rhode Island has recognized cannabis as medicine. Recently the state initiated new regulations regarding cannabis placing the Department of Business Regulation in charge of all except patient information, which is still under the Department of Health. These efforts, along with education, have dropped RI to #7 in a state by state comparison of cannabis usage (remaining steady around 18 percent of the population). Usage by ages of 12-17 in states that regulate cannabis has dropped, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, with Rhode Island previously being #5. In the time since I requested zoning change The states of Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and (California along with others) have past legislation allowing the use of recreational cannabis. Also during this time the number of medicinal users in Rhode Island has increased from 16,000 to 20,000. Nationally, one in five people now have access to cannabis, either medicinal or recreational.
So what does all this mean for our town? It means that the growing of medicinal cannabis, either by individual patients or other state licensed cultivators has been recognized, and zoning regulations permitting such will be put in place in accordance to State law (if the council approves the ordinance following the public hearing). It means that our larger unused commercial property can now be used for this purpose, our vacant storefronts can be utilized by businesses surrounding this "growing" industry. It means more jobs and tax revenue for the town. It means the Police Department will have knowledge of legal cultivation areas, allowing them to concentrate enforcement resources elsewhere (these cultivations are required to have vigorous security measures including CCTV surveillance connected with the DBR). And it means that inspection by town officials will increase safety with regard to fire code.
It does not mean we will see people "smoking marijuana" on our streets or increase access to youth (see stats above). It does not mean there will be a "pot shop" on every corner, and specifically keeps these businesses away from schools, playgrounds or churches. It does not limit patient rights in any way, and it does not make Warren any more or less a "Hippie Town." Please support zoning changes in February.
19 Ridgeway Drive