US (RI): Cannabis regulators hear demands about equity and other issues during listening tour

Roberto Pena knows firsthand the damage the War on Drugs has done to communities of color. “Their life gets on pause for something that is seemingly so minor as smoking cannabis, never mind selling it,” he said Wednesday. “I used to sell cannabis to get through college and was one of the few lucky friends that never got caught.”

Though cannabis has been legal since last December, Pena said not much positive change has come to communities like the South Side of Providence — something he hopes can be changed once regulations are established by the state’s newly-formed Cannabis Control Commission.

“The very people that are benefiting from the legalization of cannabis aren’t the people that were most affected by the prohibition,” Peña told the commission’s three members at the Southside Cultural Center of Rhode Island. “I would like to advocate for the state of Rhode Island to continue their progressive streak on this.”

Pena was among more than a dozen community members and cannabis workers who testified during the commission’s third stop on its summer listening tour, which began July 20. Chair Kimberly Ahern and members Robert Jacquard and Olayiwola Oduyingbo were there only to listen and take notes.

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