Rep. Watson to keep top GOP job despite pot charge


The top Republican in the Rhode Island House will keep his leadership position despite an arrest for driving under the influence of pot possession in Connecticut.

Rep. Robert Watson, an East Greenwich Republican, met with Republican House members Tuesday afternoon. The members voted unanimously to keep Watson as their leader.

“And I stand with nine colleagues that stand with the people and the issues that are important for the state of Rhode Island. I believe I provide a strong and articulate voice and I hope and expect that I will continue to do so,” Watson said.

Watson was stopped at a checkpoint by East Haven, Conn. Police Friday night. He was charged with driving under the influence and possession of marijuana and marijuana paraphernalia. Police allege that Watson had a bag of marijuana and a pipe in his pocket.

Watson addressed the charges against him during a speech on the House floor.

Watson says he uses the marijuana to relieve pain caused by a recurring pancreatic condition.

“I spent six days in the hospital. During treatment, I had a violent allergic reaction to a pain medication that was prescribed to me, and I ended up in a coma for five days,” Watson said in his speech.

“I’m trying to ultimately solve this issue. I confess I did treat with marijuana on one of those rare occasions where I had that debilitating pain that literally had me flat on my back and wondering at what point an ambulance comes and takes me away. And I got to confess it worked.”

Watson told NBC 10 that he didn’t have a medical marijuana card because he didn’t want part of a medical program as a public person.

When asked if he will get one now that he admitted to using it for medical purposes, he said he hopes he won’t have to and that other medical options will be available to treat his condition.

During remarks to the House he also apologized to citizens for distracting lawmakers from what he said are more important state issues including the state budget and economy.

NBC 10 contributed to this report.

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