8/29/2011 - Last week was a busy one for elected officials caught with pot in Connecticut. A former alderman from Ansonia, CT was sentenced in a federal court to 3 years in prison for his role in growing more than 1400 cannabis plants. Joseph Cassetti, 61, owned many of the properties where the plants were seized in 2008. Two other men in their twenties were convicted of selling and distributing the cannabis.
Next was Rhode Island State Representative Robert A. Watson who failed to reach a plea deal in a DUI case. Watson was stopped by East Haven, CT police in April at a sobriety checkpoint. He tested below the legal limit for alcohol, blowing a 0.05 percent. But a urinalysis showed THC and cocaine.
In an interesting twist, Watson claims to be using cannabis to treat pancreatitis. He said that he did not smoke any marijuana the day of his arrest. Watson also said he kept marijuana on hand for medical use.
Watson, a Republican, has held his seat since 1993. He was the House Minority Leader at the time of his arrest but was quickly removed from that role by his legislative peers. Still, Watson has retained his seat and has not announced any plans to resign.
Watson did vote “Yes” in 2009 for the medical marijuana law now in place. Yet when Rhode Island considered a bill to decriminalize marijuana possession for adults this year Watson fought hard against it.
In a Feb. 2011 speech to the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce Rep. Watson put his opposition to a variety of bills into a now-infamous statement: “I suppose if you’re a gay man from Guatemala who gambles and smokes pot, you probably think that we’re onto some good ideas here.”
Watson refused to apologize for the statement, even when pressured by Guatemalan-American groups.
Rep. Watson is essentially the only openly-green medical cannabis patient in the Rhode Island General Assembly. It is not known if he is officially a participant in the state’s program. RI allows access though caregivers and home cultivation. Governor Lincoln Chafee has kept the three state-approved RI dispensaries from opening.
Because Watson failed to reach a plea deal in Connecticut last week the case against him will continue.
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Chris Goldstein is a respected marijuana reform advocate. As a writer and radio broadcaster he has been covering cannabis news for over a decade. Questions? firstname.lastname@example.org