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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

It’s time

Legalize It — 2017

We are back.

Legislation to tax and regulate marijuana — making marijuana legal for adult recreational use — will be introduced in the new legislative session by Senator Josh Miller (D-Cranston) and Representative Scott Slater (D-District 10), two of the most enlightened and informed legislators on Smith Hill.

And a big welcome to newly elected Moira Walsh (D-District 3) who also participated in the January 11 press conference.

Organizing the effort once again is Regulate RI — a statewide coalition of citizens and organizations* working to replace the costly and ineffective policy of marijuana prohibition with a system to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol — and its energetic director, Jared Moffat.

I’ve met some great people in this effort (go here to see a quick slideshow of coalition members, we’re pretty awesome) but we’ve been going back to the state house for over six years now and I would rather hang out with these folks somewhere else . . . anywhere else.

To those who are still saying we shouldn’t rush into this . . . please define “rush” for me. It’s been legalized in nine states already, one now being Massachusetts which is right on our border.

They will now have the edge in getting this product to market, and all those tax revenues and all those jobs will now be going to Massachusetts.

Sam Bell, state coordinator for RI Progressive Democrats, had a great column in the ProJo reminding us that Rhode Islanders already use quite a bit of marijuana and support its legalization.
We also consume an inordinate amount of marijuana, with a study from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health placing our state at the top of America in marijuana consumption rate. Although nationwide polling consistently shows support for treating marijuana much like we treat alcohol, support is even higher in Rhode Island.
Call your legislators and tell them it is time.

And everyone should call the Speaker of the House, Nicholas Mattiello at (401) 222-2466 and urge him to let this legislation out of committee.

He was too busy last year getting himself reelected to give this legislation the attention it deserved. He only won his race by 86 votes  he knows he is still very vulnerable.

If you live in Mattiello’s district definitely give him a call.

And tell Governor Raimondo she might want to consult with Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper.
He initially opposed legalization but has since had a change of heart. According to the LA Times,
. . . none of Hickenlooper’s worst fears were realized.
Colorado is booming. The state has a 4.2% unemployment rate, one of the best in the country. High-tech companies are moving in. Small towns across the state, some once teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, have been saved by tax revenues from pot dispensaries. And the $1-billion-a-year cannabis business will pump $100 million in taxes into state coffers this year.
And how about this December headline in the Washington Post — “After legalization, teen marijuana use drops sharply in Colorado”?

Make 2017 the year Rhode Island decides to end marijuana prohibition and tax and regulate it like alcohol.

*I am a speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) an organization of criminal justice professionals who bear personal witness to the wasteful futility and harms of our current drug policies.