Tax And Regulate Marijuana In 2016 — Let’s Do This!

Marijuana reform advocates will be returning to the state house next year in the hopes of convincing the General Assembly that 2016 is the year for Rhode Island to join the forward-thinking states that already regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol.

“War on marijuana a flop in R.I.” in today’s Providence Journal makes an excellent case for not kicking the can down the road once again this year.

We urge Rhode Island lawmakers to initiate a serious conversation and take action on this issue in the 2016 legislative session. We have had ample time over the past few years to observe the experiences in Colorado and Washington. We should take full advantage of this newly available information to design our own sensible policies here in Rhode Island. Despite a few initial regulatory challenges, other states’ systems are running smoothly. Even individuals who initially voiced opposition to marijuana regulation — like Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper — now acknowledge that things are going quite well.

The piece was signed by James Crowley, M.D., James Vincent, and Andrew Horwitz, identified as co-chairs of Regulate Rhode Island, a coalition that advocates for regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol. (I speak for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), also a member of the coalition.)

Andrew Horwitz is a professor of law and assistant dean at Roger Williams School of Law; Jim Vincent is State Chair for the R.I. NAACP; and James Crowley M.D. is a member and former president of Rhode Island Medical Society and professor emeritus of medicine at Brown University, and has written on this topic before. Not exactly Cheech and Chong and . . . Jeff Spicoli?

In fact, these selfless advocates have impeccable credentials, years of experience, and are motivated only by the desire to see a more just and sensible approach to marijuana use. Hopefully the folks on Smith Hill will take note.

Because here’s the thing,

It makes little sense for lawmakers table this issue again in 2016. Next November, Massachusetts will probably approve a ballot initiative to regulate and tax marijuana. When that happens, Rhode Islanders will simply cross the border to purchase marijuana, putting tax money into Massachusetts’ coffers instead of our own.

The first state in the northeast to legalize marijuana will have an economic leg-up on the states that will inevitably follow. And both the Governor and the House Speaker have indicated that their minds are open. Contact them, and your own representatives, and let them know you support this initiative.

The most recent Gallup poll says that 58% of Americans support ending marijuana prohibition. Come on Rhode Island, let’s do this.

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