Press Release

Parents, Legislators, and National and International Experts Join at Brown University to Discuss the Future of Rhode Island's Drug Treatment, Education, Intervention, Regulatory and Prevention Strategies

Conference Will Kick Off Debate About RI Rep. Ajello&rsquo;s Marijuana Regulation Bill</p>
Stakeholders to Focus on Drug War&rsquo;s Effect on Young People, Families, and Communities</p>

Contact: Brad Brockmann ( ) 617-901-9425, Tony Newman (; 646-335-5384 , or Jared Moffat ( 601-946-9554</p>

Providence, RI – Co mmunity leaders will join state legislators and drug policy experts to deliberate the direction of Rhode Island’s marijuana policy at “New Directions Rhode Island: A Public Safety and Health Approach to Drug Policy,” a statewide conference to be held December 8th at Brown University. The public symposium will convene state leaders alongside policy experts to examine the impact of and alternatives to current drug policies – and call upon Governor Chafee to embrace the growing nationwide momentum behind reform.

“Rhode Islanders recognize that it’s time for reform,” said Senator Josh Miller of Warwick. “This conference is an opportunity to discuss what reform could look like.”

The conference will explore methods of reform that might better protect Rhode Island communities, families and kids, said Michelle McKenzie, a conference organizer and mother affiliated with Protect Families First, a Rhode Island nonprofit. “We rarely hear it, but the first victims of our current policies are families and children,” said McKenzie.

“All the evidence shows that our current laws simply cultivate a massive black market, which in turn preys on young people,” added Dr. Nick Zaller, Professor of Medicine at Brown University and recent father, also with Protect Families First. “The confe rence will look at how strictly regulating the market for marijuana could seriously impact the existing black market, and reduce drug-related crime and drug availability for our kids, among other things. That’s what this conference is about – finding acceptable solutions.”

One hundred fifty to two hundred stakeholders from around the state will come together to listen to and engage with community leaders and experts about:

  • The impact of current drug policies on children, families, and the communities they live in, and how they are affected by illegal markets, drug availability in schools, and incarceration.
  • Alternative approaches and policies: a discussion about collaborative, multi-pronged solutions including regulatory, treatment, education, intervention, and prevention strategies.
  • The disparate racial impacts of drug enforcement and sentencing practices.
  • How to educate young people about the risks of marijuana use, featuring an overview of the failures of abstinence-only drug education programs, as well as alternative approaches to drug education, from Marsha Rosenbaum, one of the nation’s leading drug education experts.

Featured participants include:

  • Representative Edith Ajello, RI General Assembly, Providence, RI
  • Representative Joseph Almeida, former Providence police officer and recently reelected Representative of Providence's 12th District
  • Attorney John Amabile, former Assistant Attorney General of Massachusetts
  • Brad Brockmann, Executive Director of the Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights, Providence, RI
  • Robert Capecchi, Legislative Analyst, Marijuana Policy Project, Washington, DC
  • Dr. Kathleen Carty, Executive Director of Vantage Point, West Warwick, RI
  • Charles Cudworth, Clinical Director of Rhode Island Student Assistance Services
  • Major Neill Franklin, undercover narcotics agent and Executive Director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition
  • Representative Roger Goodman, State Representative from Washington and leader of the successful Initiative-502
  • Michelle McKenzie, Senior Project Director at The Miriam Hospital and Research Associate at the Alpert Medical School
  • Senator Joshua Miller, RI Senator, District 28 (Cranston and Warwick)
  • Jared Moffat, Director of Outreach and Planning, Protect Families First, Providence, RI
  • Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director, Drug Policy Alliance
  • Steve Rolles, Senior Policy Analyst at Transform Drug Policy Foundation, United Kingdom
  • Marsha Rosenbaum, Director Emerita of the San Francisco office of the Drug Policy Alliance and President of the JK Irwin Foundation, San Francisco
  • Dr. Lyn Stein, Professor of Clinical Psychology, University of Rhode Island, and researcher focused on youth who use drugs and/or alcohol and are involved in the criminal justice system, North Smithfield, RI
  • Misty Wilson, Organizer, Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE), Providence, RI
  • Dr. Nick Zaller, Asst. Prof. of Medicine at Brown University Medical School; Project Director of Substance Abuse Treatment and HIV/AIDS Services at Miriam Hospital, Providence, RI

Following recent referendums in Washington and Colorado, marijuana reform remains in the national spotlight. But the conference is meant to deliberate, not dictate, emphasized Brad Brockmann, a conference organizer and Executive Director of the Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights. “This is an effort to invite all parties to the table,” said Brockmann. “We need an open discussion, and to hear all sides of the debate.”

The announcement of the conference comes one week after Rep. Edith Ajello announced her intention to introduce legislation to legally regulate marijuana in 2013. “This conference is what we need to jumpstart the conversation about reform,” said Ajello. “Whatever we decide to do must put Rhode Island values first. We can be the first state to deliberate, and possibly pass, pro-family drug policy reform.”

The event will take place in Brown’s Alumnae Hall at 194 Meeting St. in Providence from 9 a.m. to 2:15 p.m., with registration and breakfast available starting at 8:30 a.m. Spaces are limited.  Rhode Islanders and others interested in attending the conference should register at or email conference coordinator Rebecca McGoldrick at to reserve a seat.

This event is sponsored by the Drug Policy Alliance, National Association of Social Workers–RI Affiliate, RI Public Health Association, RI Association of Nurses in AIDS Care, RI Communities for Addiction Recovery Efforts, American Civil Liberties Union–RI Affiliate, Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, D irect Action for Rights and Equality, Protect Families First, Faith Infused Recovery Efforts, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, and OpenDoors.

Rhode Island