Council to determine fate of cannabis smokers in public

The city council will hold a public hearing on Monday to determine whether people should be allowed to smoke marijuana in public.

According to the proposed order, cannabis, as defined by state law, would be prohibited in public places, including “outdoor common areas, parks, beaches, schools, school grounds and facilities Recreation”. Smoking in a motor vehicle on public property, including highways, would also be against the law.

Ed Mello, Jamestown’s police chief, asked the city council in July if they should write an ordinance. This was in response to the legalization of recreational marijuana in Rhode Island in May.

“I think you know the answer to that question,” said Nancy Beye, board chair.

While Mello said “everyone has kind of evolved” to accept that smoking marijuana should be legal in private homes, the National Association of Chiefs of Police “begged” legislative sponsors not to impose the burden of outdoor smoking bans on cities and towns. The reason, he said, is that a local ordinance, versus state law, “makes it difficult for us to really have teeth in enforcement.” The sponsors, however, ignored the concerns.

“The same laws that generally apply to the consumption of alcohol in public spaces and motor vehicles have been completely omitted from the legislation,” Mello said.

The proposed order covers vaping and smoking. Marijuana edibles, however, should be omitted as they would not be a public nuisance nor are they detectable.

The bill signed into law by Governor Dan McKee decriminalizes the sale and possession of up to 1 ounce of cannabis for people 21 years of age or older, with a maximum of 10 ounces for personal use kept in a primary residence. It would also allow residents of Rhode Island to grow up to three mature marijuana plants and three immature plants in their homes.

According to state law, cannabis or marijuana refers to all parts of any plant of the genus cannabis, whether growing or not. This includes seeds, extracted resin and “every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture or preparation of the plant”.

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