The Scoop - Whitehouse Talks State and Federal Marijuana Laws

Thursday, September 12, 2013


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Welcome to The Scoop, the 4 p.m. report on everything politics in Rhode Island – the inside daily report exclusively on

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Sen. Whitehouse Talks About the Legal Issues Surrounding Marijuana Legislation

Earlier this week, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on marijuana legalization and the struggle between state and federal marijuana laws. The hearing, which was titled “Conflicts Between State and Federal Marijuana Laws,” featured testimony from the deputy attorney general, officials from states where marijuana is legalized, one critic of marijuana legalization, and senators from states where the use of medical marijuana is legalized—including Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse.

As for how this week's federal hearing affects Rhode Island, here's what Whitehouse had to say:

"We know that marijuana can provide relief for patients suffering from serious illnesses,” Whitehouse told GoLocal. “I applaud Rhode Island's effort to make it available for that purpose. As Rhode Island and other states implement their laws, they will benefit from clear federal guidance regarding national law-enforcement priorities. To that end, I am pleased that the Department of Justice has committed to working with states to eliminate legal uncertainty and to prevent unnecessary litigation over state laws."

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Rep. Marcello Gives Update on EDC, 38 Studios Hearings

On Wednesday, the House Committee on Oversight met to continue a review of documents obtained from the RI Economic Development Corporation related to 38 Studios.  GoLocal reached out to Rep. Michael J. Marcello (D-Dist. 41, Scituate, Cranston), the Chairman of the Oversight Committee, to find out what was discussed on Wednesday and to learn the committee's plans moving forward.

“This sixth House Oversight Committee hearing on this topic alone focused on a review of the Economic Development Corporation documents after its decision to award the $75 million loan guarantee to 38 Studios. We learned that there was a clear lack of oversight conducted by the EDC on this loan," Marcello told GoLocal. "I am also concerned that the EDC staff signed a waiver to the project monitoring agreement which eliminated the requirement to receive written reports which raised some significant warning signals. It is obvious from the documents that the company was clearly undercapitalized from the start and they were scrambling to come up with necessary funding.

“These hearings have provided the first opportunity to review these documents in a public setting, with all of our meetings televised. The EDC has been cooperative and has provided us with thousands of pages of documents. I will now seek input from the committee members as to additional documents that they may be seeking and other actions that they feel may be appropriate. A complete hearing can not be accomplished without live testimony and it is my intention to invite relevant witnesses, mindful of the fact that some of the key people are directly involved in a civil suit which will have an effect on my timing, but not on my intent.”

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Balldelli-Hunt Touts the Need for Economic Development in Woonsocket

Stating that economic development needs to be the top priority of the next mayor of Woonsocket, mayoral candidate Lisa Baldelli-Hunt has announced she will eliminate the position of Economic Development Director in Woonsocket and do the job herself. Baldelli-Hunt said she will use the funds from eliminating that position to put streetlights back on throughout the city and "make our neighborhoods safer".

“We need a Mayor who is fully focused on bringing new businesses to our city,” said Baldelli-Hunt. “Too many businesses are leaving the city and that is a clear sign the current approach is not working and we need to change the way we do things.”

“My first act will be to eliminate the Economic Development Director position and use the funds we save to put the streetlights back on in neighborhoods that have been left dark for months. This is a public safety issue for children, seniors and people who are afraid to walk in their own neighborhoods at night.”

Baldelli-Hunt noted that the Economic Development Director also serves as Human Services Director, which raises serious questions about how much attention is actually being focused on reviving the local economy. She said committing approximately $110,000 in salary and benefits to that position is not bringing an effective return and that the departure of numerous big-name stores from the Diamond Hill Road area shows that the city’s economic development efforts are going in the wrong direction.

Instead, Baldelli-Hunt said Woonsocket needs a plan to create an environment where businesses want to be. One key part of that plan will be turning long-darkened streetlights throughout the city back on, which she said is a basic first step in improving the quality of life in the city and making neighborhoods safer. Noting that the streetlights in front of the Stadium Theatre are usually off and have to be turned on by request for performances, Baldelli-Hunt said a building that is a centerpiece of the downtown shouldn’t be in the dark most of the time and should be highlighting what is working in Woonsocket.

“A city that can’t keep the lights on is not a city that is going to attract businesses,” said Baldelli-Hunt. “We need to re-establish our priorities and recognize that turning on the lights sends the message that we care about our neighborhoods and are proud of our city.”

In addition to Baldelli-Hunt, Woonsocket's mayoral race includes incumbent Mayor Leo Fontaine, David Fisher, Roland Michaud, and Michael Moniz. Click here to see how the candidates are doing in terms of fundraising.

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Race for General Treasurer – By the Numbers

Today we’ll examine the campaign financing data for the 2014 candidates for general treasurer. With current Treasurer Gina Raimondo eyeing a run for governor in 2014, the race for general treasure comes down to two candidates: former state Auditor General Ernie Almonte and former General Treasurer Frank Caprio.

Here’s how the candidates are faring financially, according to the most recent filings from the RI Board of Elections:

  • Ernie Almonte: $166,895.44 cash on hand as of June 30, 2013.
  • Frank Caprio: $200,000 cash on hand as of June 30, 2013.


Despite the numbers, looks can be deceiving. In fact, Caprio’s war chest is made up entirely of money that he loaned himself. Additionally, Almonte’s fundraising also includes a personal loan for $50,000.

Source of data:

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