If you have been to return in time even simply 5 years in the past and say that, in 2021, Rhode Island can be unable to move leisure marijuana laws into regulation as a result of there have been too many totally different concepts in favor of the idea (and how you can do it correctly), you’d in all probability get some attention-grabbing responses out of your friends.
And but, right here we’re. Both Governor Dan McKee and the Rhode Island Senate (via a invoice co-sponsored by Warwick’s Michael McCaffrey and Cranston’s Joshua Miller) have put forth proposals outlining how they consider the drug must be legalized, managed and monetized, leading to a stalemate as advocates choose aside the professionals and cons of every strategy. We consider there’s center floor to be discovered right here that may end in the absolute best consequence for Rhode Island.
Quite quite a bit has modified in Little Rhody since Massachusetts took the plunge into leisure marijuana legalization in 2016 – although its trade has solely been really operational since 2018. Political urge for food for authorized weed has solely grown extra voracious because the matter has turn into overwhelmingly fashionable with most people and our northern neighbor has reaped tens of millions in tax income. Quite merely, it has turn into extra politically damaging in Rhode Island to outright oppose marijuana legalization than to be in favor of it.
This is to not say that the legalization of marijuana is a matter that must be taken evenly. However, in accordance with a current complete examine of all states with authorized leisure marijuana from the National Institutes of Health, most of the fears that anti-legalization advocates have warned about since Colorado first legalized in 2012 have seemed to be largely overstated and unrealized.
It has been noticed (predictably) that every one states with legalized leisure marijuana have seen vital will increase within the variety of grownup residents reporting marijuana use. However, regardless of this elevated entry, recorded admittances to behavioral well being clinics for marijuana abuse in these states has been largely flat. Similarly, the speed of use amongst minors has not been noticed as being considerably greater than pre-legalization ranges (in truth, use has dropped in some states because of extra enforcement efforts to forestall them from acquiring it). The examine additionally discovered that, whereas vehicular crashes might have elevated barely in some authorized marijuana states, there isn’t any cheap hyperlink to authorized marijuana entry being accountable.
All of those details in thoughts – mixed with the anecdotal statement that Massachusetts has not descended right into a dystopian, drug-addled hellscape ala “Reefer Madness” – leads us to levy our continued assist for the legalization of leisure marijuana in Rhode Island. The few emotional arguments heard in opposition to it could hardly be taken critically when information doesn’t assist these considerations, and far deadlier alcohol continues to be out there on each different avenue nook.
As for the 2 proposals now earlier than the Rhode Island legislature within the type of Governor McKee’s funds and the separate Senate invoice, there’s ample room for compromise right here – probably coming within the type of a House invoice that takes the perfect practices of every into consideration.
Governor McKee’s proposal would set up a lottery to grant licenses to 75 complete dispensaries over the subsequent three years, whereas the Senate invoice would set up a Cannabis Control Commission mirroring Massachusetts that might oversee licensing and enforcement of as much as 150 new leisure companies. We see no cause why the institution of a Cannabis Control Commission and a lottery course of are mutually unique. Perhaps a restricted variety of preliminary leisure licenses are totally vetted and chosen by the fee to determine finest practices for the method, after which a lottery may be utilized to assign all subsequent licenses to eligible companies in a good and clear approach.
The final successful strategy ought to incorporate items of every proposal in relation to social fairness points. Governor McKee’s invoice doesn’t embody a provision that might expunge current misdemeanor marijuana possession offenses, nevertheless it ought to, as much as the quantity that’s in the end legalized. Minority members of our society have been penalized at an exorbitantly greater fee than white residents for marijuana possession, an injustice that have to be corrected as soon as the drug is legalized.
However, McKee’s strategy would require that 20 % of retail licenses (and 50 % of ancillary companies within the sector, corresponding to marijuana processors and transporters) go to minority-owned companies – language sorely lacking from the Senate proposal. This would allow these inordinately affected negatively from prohibition prior to now to reap advantages of its legalization, because it ought to.
All different particulars of the 2 proposals are largely negotiable. Cities and cities ought to retain the correct to disclaim entry to retail marijuana of their communities if their elected officers discover that’s the will of the group. However, it mustn’t require a particular election in every group to take action (as McKee’s proposal suggests), as this might unnecessarily burden cities and cities.
And, maybe most significantly, each side agree that native, state and extra excise taxes must be utilized to all leisure gross sales. This income must be extra particularly earmarked to be used in ways in which promote good public well being outcomes – corresponding to instructional outreach to forestall marijuana abuse, underaged use, and prepare further drug recognition professional (DREs) to determine these driving whereas excessive.
There is not any cause that marijuana legalization ought to have to attend one other yr. There is lastly a political will to perform what the general public consensus has requested for a while. Work out the variations and get this trade rolling.