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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Don’t tax the sick

Say No To Tax On Medical Marijuana
By BETH COMERY in The Providence Daily Dose

So, recreational marijuana is legal in Colorado and the Denver Broncos just won the Super Bowl — one more argument in favor of legalizing and taxing marijuana here in Rhode Island. 

And while it appears that our governor is coming around to the whole taxing idea, she seems to be skipping the crucial legalizing step.

Governor Gina Raimondo recently unveiled a “tagging” system for tracking medical marijuana plants in the state. 

Patients and caregivers who cultivate medical marijuana for patients will be required to pay $150 or $350 per plant for these tags.

This elicited the following statement from Jared Moffat, Director of Regulate Rhode Island*.

We tax alcohol, but not prescription medications. Similarly, it makes little sense to extract revenue from sick people who need marijuana as a medicine while keeping marijuana that is used for fun untaxed and in the illicit market. I suspect most recreational marijuana consumers would be happy to pay taxes if only the state would make it legal for them to do so. In addition to generating more revenue, regulating marijuana like alcohol would erode the illicit marijuana market and create new businesses and jobs all over the state. It’s time to get our head out of the sand and move forward like our neighbors in Massachusetts and Vermont.
Another persuasive voice is Polly Reynolds, a registered medical marijuana patient who cultivates marijuana to ease her muscle spasms and pain caused by multiple sclerosis.
Instead of levying hefty fees from patients like me who have debilitating health conditions, Governor Raimondo and lawmakers should tax those who use marijuana for enjoyment. For us patients, marijuana is often the only thing that eases our suffering, and it is already difficult to afford because health insurance does not cover it. Raising revenue from seriously ill patients’ medicine is wrong, but taxing recreational consumers is appropriate and could help alleviate our state’s deficit.
Governor Raimondo has not closed the door on this issue. From RI Future,
Governor Gina Raimondo recently told NBC 10’s Bill Rappleye legalizing marijuana “is absolutely something we should evaluate because if we think it is inevitable and if there is a way to do it that is probably regulated so people don’t get hurt, we should take a look at it.” She said she is currently taking a “wait and see approach” as she said during her campaign.
Let’s not be the last state in New England. In addition to the social justice issues, we are leaving money on the table.

*Regulate Rhode Island is a coalition of citizens and organizations committed to ending the failed policy of marijuana prohibition and replacing it with a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol. I speak for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a member of the coalition.