OP ED: Rhode Island is Ready to Legalize Marijuana

An op-ed about their bill to legalize and tax marijuana by Rep. Edith H. Ajello and Sen. Joshua Miller.

By Rep. Edith H. Ajello and Sen. Joshua Miller

Marijuana policy reform is a hot topic these days in Rhode Island and across the country. Over the last three years, we’ve been discussing the issue with constituents, colleagues, opinion leaders and activists on both sides of the issue. Our conversations have led us to two points of agreement:

o  Our current marijuana policy has failed. For instance, studies indicate an increase in youth marijuana use and that it is easy for them to get it.

o  Most Rhode Islanders are ready for change.

A survey conducted last month by Public Policy Polling reinforced our conclusions, finding that a solid majority of Rhode Island voters support taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol, allowing adults over the age of 21 to use it. These results are right in line with several national polls that indicate a rapidly growing majority of Americans agree it is time to make marijuana legal.

Marijuana prohibition has been a failure of tragic proportions. It has failed to prevent use or abuse. It has been a distraction for law enforcement officials who should be focusing elsewhere. Marijuana prohibition has resulted in criminal records for thousands of otherwise law-abiding adults and limited the ability of too many of our young people to access financial aid for higher education. Insidiously, this prohibition has forced marijuana sales into an underground market where more dangerous products such as heroin and cocaine are also offered. Ironically, prohibition ensures that the state has no control over the product. Criminals fight over the profits and our state and municipalities forego millions of dollars of tax revenue.

It is for these reasons that we support regulating and taxing marijuana as we regulate and tax alcohol, and approaching marijuana as a public health matter rather than a criminal justice problem. We can mandate that marijuana be properly tested and labeled so that consumers know what they are getting. We can restrict sales to minors and ensure that those who sell marijuana are asking for proof of age. We can collect tens of millions of dollars in much-needed tax revenue and foster the creation of new businesses and jobs in an emerging industry.

Importantly, we can redirect our drug prevention and treatment resources toward addressing the abuse of more harmful drugs such as methamphetamine, heroin and prescription narcotics. We can urge teens to stay away from marijuana until their brains are fully developed.

Those who wish to maintain our current prohibition laws often claim marijuana is a “gateway drug” that will inevitably lead to the use of other drugs, but studies suggest otherwise. According to a 1999 study commissioned by the White House and performed by the Institute of Medicine, marijuana “does not appear to be a gateway drug to the extent that it is the cause or even that it is the most significant predictor of serious drug abuse.”

Marijuana’s illegal status creates the gateway. By forcing marijuana consumers into the underground market, we dramatically increase the possibility that they will be exposed to more dangerous substances. Separating marijuana from the illicit drug markets while reducing exposure to more addictive and dangerous substances cannot help but reduce any gateway effect associated with marijuana use. Customers buying a bottle of wine for dinner are not, after all, offered heroin.

Regulating marijuana will take the product out of the hands of criminal enterprises and place it behind counters of legitimate businesses that safely and responsibly sell marijuana - and marijuana only - to adults 21 and older.

Under marijuana prohibition, illicit profits are used to fund violent gangs, illegal gun markets, human trafficking, and other violent trades. Regulating marijuana will allow us to redirect marijuana sales revenue away from the violent criminal market and toward a meaningful solution. A large portion of tax revenue derived from wholesale transactions will fund programs preventing and treating the abuse of alcohol and other substances. According to federal government data, nearly 2.5 percent of Rhode Islanders needed treatment for hard drugs in 2012 but did not receive it. The recent spike in drug overdose deaths is a stark reminder of the need for treatment and education.

Most people recognize that marijuana prohibition’s days are numbered. The question is now “when should we end it?” not “should we?” Like most Rhode Islanders, we believe now is the time and regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol is the answer.

Rep. Edith H. Ajello (D-Dist. 1, Providence), chairwoman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence), chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, are the sponsors of legislation to regulate and tax marijuana in Rhode Island.

Joe The Plumber February 18, 2014 at 01:53 PM
Well said RI! You needn't look much farther than the two sponsors of this Bill.
RIinsider February 18, 2014 at 02:00 PM
Right you are, sir.
Esoteric Knowledge February 18, 2014 at 02:05 PM
RIinsider: Even if what you say is true, individuals who can't spell, have difficulty writing complete sentences and conveying their thoughts, and have nothing fundamental to say that it's "better than alcohol" are succeeding against people like you; and that doesn't say anything good about you.
RIinsider February 18, 2014 at 02:22 PM
I'm not here to compete or succeed, you moron...i'm just telling you that the time is not now. You wanna pay $65 for an eighth of something that people are buying for less than $40 on the street? And, you like the idea of that hefty tax, which will be gobbled up by mindless politicians who like to line their pockets, and those of their friends. You and your friends can kiss your lenient grow rights goodbye, once big business moves in...and they'll be laughing all the way to the bank, while you stuff their wallets full of cash.
RIinsider February 18, 2014 at 02:43 PM
Notice how they vanish in thin air when faced with facts, or when proposed with a question...so again, why should I believe that legalizing marijuana now will fix our state's financial problems?
Brew February 18, 2014 at 03:46 PM
"Have you noticed that the potheads here write in run-on sentences, pretty much the way they think.... And they say pot doesn't effect thinking???" You tell those potheads, joe! Yo guys! Less Faulkner, more Highlights Magazine. Remember your audience. Try and be more stilted and uncomfortable with yourself. Doubt yourself more and try and be as flat and unimaginative as possible. This is how you be an acceptable person. Hope this helps, joe!
Brew February 18, 2014 at 03:55 PM
"And, they love to copy and paste!!" RIinsider, as someone who's been copying and pasting on a daily basis for 25 years, I can honestly say that I've forgotten what it is I was going to say. Consider yourself lucky.
G3 February 18, 2014 at 04:34 PM
In any debate, whichever side must resort to name-calling is the one that has lost. That seems to be you, RIinsider and Joe. Calling someone names is a sign that a person is neither smart nor witty enough to defend themselves with a logical argument, which you have proven to be the case. By name-calling you are essentially admitting: 1) You admit your opponent has bested you in the debate and you cannot offer a worthy counter 2) You are making an attempt to divert the attention of your opponent and others from your weak argument 3) You are using a diversion of desperation, to snatch victory emotionally when cannot gain it logically.
Boon Mcnolys February 18, 2014 at 04:59 PM
I don't buy my Alcohol from the neighborhood Alcohol dealer. I make my way down to the Liquor store. It might not catch on right away but, people will gravitate towards THC stores over time. More selections " cooler stuff dude" haha. Stores already carry a variety of Marijuana all with different THC% Not all beers are 5% alcohol. Some 6%, some 9%. Different tastes,different ways made and all different prices. Marijuana (THC) can be applied in many things as some might know. Stores in California already have THC candy bars. Its even in pill form and oil. Plus, I don't have to worry about getting ripped off! Or my dealer getting busted. Maybe he didn't "pick up" or harvest isn't ready yet. Why worry! When I can go to the THC store 8am- 10 pm, Monday-Friday.( only open till 4 on sunday) IN WIIKKKAPPPAUGGE!!!
RIinsider February 18, 2014 at 05:06 PM
There has not been one attempt by supporters, to answer any of my legitimate questions...is it because you can't copy and paste an answer? Too much thinking for you? You don't have a clue? You would think that these people would try to sway me with facts, or at least provide some kind of argument to convince me that this is the right thing to do, now...but, no. Not one attempt. Sounds mindless, like the politicos who will do and say anything for votes.
Boon Mcnolys February 18, 2014 at 05:14 PM
I'm not apposed to change. I'm pretty sure when alcohol fought prohibition it had its issues. Alcohol now generates more money in taxes than ever. Bars, restaurant's, liquor stores, sporting events. Its created businesses, Jobs and made its way to becoming and American past time. " Have a few beers watching the game" as they say. But, there is a terrible side too. Alcohol has 400,000-700,000 related deaths every year. Alcohol is abused more than ever. I don't need to tell you that. I am sure your well aware of the dangers. It just needs to have a balance in life. Are you willing to generate Millions of dollars in taxes. For the issues Marijuana will bring? Are you ready to see marijuana commercials on tv? Are you ready to see Marijuana stores placed all over Rhode Island? For it to be socially excepted. Too see people smoking pot at sporting events or outside of bars?
RIinsider February 18, 2014 at 05:30 PM
Cool, man. Enjoy your dealer's cheap weed now because things are gonna change, and quick.
Boon Mcnolys February 18, 2014 at 05:59 PM
I actually don't smoke Marijuana. Surprised? Served several years in the armed forces. FOR RHODE ISLAND. Took lots and lots of drug tests (what felt like two times a month) and never failed. Went to college. hung out with many regular Pot smokers. None of which are stupid, lazy or ignorant. They didn't offer me or peer pressured me into smoking. Which I couldn't anyways. RIinsider you degrade people in this comment section just because your level of written English language is more proficient than others. Im sure someone in here has answered you questions a few times. Just not on your level of intelligence. So I will cut it short for you. If you don't want Marijuana legalized or pissed off with how Rhode Island "runs things". Well guess what, your shit out of luck. Because the people of Rhode Island have spoken 53% are for it. I don't like a lot of things In Rhode Island But I have to either pay for it( in taxes) or deal with it. I have no control over it besides when its my chance to vote. So embrace the suck! Teach your kids the " dangers of smoking pot" and hope for the best.
Boon Mcnolys February 18, 2014 at 06:10 PM
All I wanted to know is if Marijuana is legal in Rhode Island, applying for jobs or Employment that regularly include pre Drug screenings, Marijuana( THC) wont matter? I'm sure jobs in Rhode Island will maintain the stander drug policies. If your job all ready says no to stoners. I'm sure it will stay that way when pot is legal. So why worry anyways?
Rose Genereux February 18, 2014 at 06:50 PM
Touché Boon. Instead of complaining about where you live (constantly), leave, RIinsider. Check the feed. Or was it not answered the way you wanted?
RIinsider February 18, 2014 at 07:40 PM
You guys have me all wrong...tap your bowls out while I explain. Nobody's complaining, either. This is forum for discussion and all I've heard is how much better weed is compared to alcohol, and the notion that legalization will miraculously pull us out of a financial slump. Why the comparison to alcohol? Is there no better argument? And, why should I believe that this will net huge returns in tax revenue...and, what do you have to base that on? Two months of sales in CO, where people pay more than double the current street prices? I'm not against legalization, I'm against big business and narrow minded politicians who stuff their coffers with donations (and support) from out of state entities, who try to bankroll their way through the statehouse.
MikeD February 18, 2014 at 08:21 PM
The revenue marijuana could bring in would not fix our state's fiscal problems. To be fair, no one has ever claimed that it would. All anyone has ever claimed is that it could bring in "10s of million" per year. Rhode Island's total public debit as of Jan 11, 2014 is 18.9 billion dollars and it is also running a deficit of 149 million dollars. By 2018, the deficit will be 410 million. Clearly it would just be a drop in the bucket, but at least it is more likely it could help in some small way. As it stands, every single dollar goes to the pockets of thugs. Do you see drug cartels donating 50% of their profits to drug addiction programs, education, or road improvements? No, you don't. Yes, Rhode Island is corrupt, but I have to believe our government is less corrupt than drug cartels and dealers. Maybe, maybe not, depends on the day. However, you're not allowing there to be a middle ground between it simply supplementing state revenue and it being some kind of magic wand. My bottom line though, is that if it could help chip away at our mountain of debt without causing society to collapse, why the f*** would you be against it? As far as why the comparison to alcohol... maybe because it happens to be the perfect test case for what happens when you deny allowing people something they want (See: Alcohol Prohibition). Except this time it's less dangerous and less addictive and the government knows it.
Joe The Plumber February 19, 2014 at 02:09 AM
Please folks, spare us the Kabuki Dance that any of the pot taxes or revenue will help the Rhode Island economy. Do we just ignore our past? Where did the tobacco tax and the tobacco industry lawsuit settlement go? It went to the General Fund. Did the gasoline tax get spent on roads and bridges? No, it went to the General Fund. Did the gambling and lottery taxes go to create jobs? No, it went to the general fund. So, tell me, where will the pot tax go? It will go to where all of the other revenue streams end up in this corrupt state. It will go into creating more bureaucracy, bigger government, and more social handout . Into that cesspool of a general fund where our corrupt legislators can lay their grimy fingers on it. It won't create robust commerce, it won't create valuable jobs, it won't create better educated children. Instead it will help our children to become potheads, with no jobs and no meaningful futures.
MikeD February 19, 2014 at 10:23 AM
"Instead it will help our children to become potheads, with no jobs and no meaningful futures."...Veterans Affairs scientists looked at whether heavy marijuana use as a young adult caused long-term problems later, studying identical twins in which one twin had been a heavy marijuana user for a year or longer but had stopped at least one month before the study, while the second twin had used marijuana no more than five times ever. Marijuana use had no significant impact on physical or mental health care utilization, health-related quality of life, or current socio-demographic characteristics. (Eisen SE et al. Does Marijuana Use Have Residual Adverse Effects on Self-Reported Health Measures, Socio-Demographics or Quality of Life? A Monozygotic Co-Twin Control Study in Men. Addiction. Vol. 97 No. 9. p.1083-1086. Sept. 1997)
Boon Mcnolys February 19, 2014 at 01:14 PM
Anything that makes money will eventually be take on by "big business". Its unavoidable Joe the plumber and RIinsider. YOU CANT STOP THE MACHINE. If something becomes popular and the dollar signs pop up. Its taken on by corporations. Look at anything in this world. Video games used to cost 10 bucks. now their 60+ taxes. Why? because someone figured out its going to be a BIG deal. So now video games are a billion dollar industry and the games are getting shitter. ( maybe not all) Football, basketball, hockey, skateboarding (SNOWBOARD AND SKIING especially).didn't start out exspensive. now you try to go to a pats game or snowboard you might as well save 500 bucks just for that day. SO !@#$ing what if someone wants to pay $40 for a gram of bud, that's their choice.
david david February 19, 2014 at 01:42 PM
Hey Weed Haters! How is the Aspartame and Fluoride working out for you? How is that GMO food working on your body! http://aspartame.mercola.com/ http://fluoridealert.org/issues/health/ http://www.responsibletechnology.org/health-risks. There are way bigger fish to fry than this weed thing . Take a look at the links . We are all under attack . http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jf0khstYDLA Wake up and let Freedom Ring !
RIinsider February 19, 2014 at 02:38 PM
@boon...then according to your argument, it sounds like consumers will have NO CHOICE and that's what I'm opposed to! Thank you for doing my leg work, you proved my point exactly.
MikeD February 19, 2014 at 03:25 PM
If you don't smoke pot and you are not a dealer that is sweating losing profits... then why the hell do you care if the prices go up? I get that you're opposed to the idea that "consumers will have no choice", but unless you're personally consuming it or selling it, it will have no effect on you. Sounds like you're just here to antagonize people.
Boon Mcnolys February 19, 2014 at 03:26 PM
To be honest I though you were greatly apposed to marijuana in the first place. (health issues ect). I know you hated people comparing THC to Alcohol. But they will be treat as one in the same. Bud light has commercials on tv. Should marijuana also? Smoking anything is bad. Our lungs weren't designed to inhale broken down particles aka smoke. So don't tell me Marijuana is the all mightily healer. That goes with drinking to much Orange juice. TOO MUCH OF ANYTHING IS BAD FOR YOU. My advice whether you take it or not RIinsider. Is try not to be so whimsical or cocky when arguing a debate. People will concentrate more on your personal attacks towards them then your "questions". If you want your questions answered then your getting no where fast by doing that crap. Though it was funny though. "tap your bowls out while I explain". Unfortunately I don't smoke. So I'll crack a beer. My cheap beer because I cant afford the nice stuff. Until I start my engineering job. That I took a drug test for because they don't want "pot heads working there".
RIinsider February 19, 2014 at 04:32 PM
Jeez, a guy has some legitimate questions (which was like pulling teeth, trying to get legitimate answers for) about a major, controversial issue and he's nearly crucified at the stake by you people. And, why shouldn't I care about the consumer? It doesn't matter what the issue is, and since I'm a consumer I have every right to pose questions and initiate debate on a serious topic that will affect every RI'er. Don't mistake my confidence for cockiness, my friend.
Boon Mcnolys February 19, 2014 at 04:50 PM
1)"I've never seen so many mindless idiots in one place, than I have following this whole legalization issue. 2)"You guys have me all wrong...tap your bowls out while I explain." 3)"I'm not here to compete or succeed, you moron..." That was Confidence? Again, People will concentrate more on your personal attacks towards them then your "questions".
RIinsider February 19, 2014 at 04:58 PM
Thanks for the advice daniel boon. Peace out!
Boon Mcnolys February 19, 2014 at 05:01 PM
I agree you do raise some interesting issues. but this has to be sorted out. It might not be legal tomorrow or next year. It's going to happen whether "we the people" want it or not. same with homosexual marriage, paying ridiculous taxes, health care and taking away guns. Too many people in a small state and ever individual is getting what they want. Regardless of the out come. Not caring about what others have to sacrifice. Im pretty sure in 2055-3000 people will look back and say " Marijuana used to be illegal and some people had guns! Boy, were they stupid." "Yeah they even believe in god". ( not that I'm religious)
Brew February 19, 2014 at 05:52 PM
For those of you who seem to think so, if marijuana is legalizing, smoking it will not be *mandatory*. You can calm down.
Erik Bense March 13, 2014 at 11:01 AM


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