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Steve Ahlquist is an award-winning journalist, writer, artist and founding member of the Humanists of Rhode Island, a non-profit group dedicated to reason, compassion, optimism, courage and action. The views expressed are his own and not necessarily those of any organization of which he is a member.

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"We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” - Elie Weisel

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor." - Desmond Tutu

"There comes a time when neutrality and laying low become dishonorable. If you’re not in revolt, you’re in cahoots. When this period and your name are mentioned, decades hence, your grandkids will look away in shame." - David Brooks

4 responses to “Is this finally the year for a marijuana tax and regulate bill in RI?”

  1. cailin rua

    This is a horribly written bill for many reasons but one of the most serious reasons is how the regulate like alcohol focus has been interpreted in the U K and Ireland:

    “When it was pointed out that traces of cannabis can stay in the body for a week, the Minister was asked if cannabis users who were “completely sober” at the time of the test could be prosecuted.

    “Yes,” he said.”

    For those who use prescription drugs it will have to be proven that those who are on prescription drugs have been impaired by that usage to obtain a convicyion, even in the question of opiates but not for cannabis. How is that not discriminatory? How is it correct to imprison someone for negligence that cannot be proven? What about the presumption of innocence? What basis is there to assume those on opiates or even alcohol may not be impaired simply because of usage when the assumption is made about cannabis that any trace levels cause “impairment” and established without any criteria for impairment? What is there to stop such unreasonableness from being written into law here the way it has in the U K and Ireland?

    According to the Washington Post and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

    “after adjusting for age, gender, race and alcohol use, drivers who tested positive for marijuana were no more likely to crash than who had not used any drugs or alcohol prior to driving.”

    I will link to the WaPo piece below. Here’s another quote for the time being:

    “The chart above tells the story. For marijuana, and for a number of other legal and illegal drugs including antidepressants, painkillers, stimulants and the like, there is no statistically significant change in the risk of a crash associated with using that drug prior to driving.”


    “overall alcohol use, measured at a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) threshold of 0.05 or above, increases your odds of a wreck nearly seven-fold.”

    How is it not extremely disingenuous to equate cannabis use with true alcohol impairment? It is patently wrong.

    There will be problems with inexperienced users. People will have anxiety attacks triggered by the fact they are not used to the effects cannabis will produce in people who have little to no experience. What it will amount to is nothing more than the kind of anxiety people inexperience with the effects of occular migraines. I have occular migraines all the time, even when driving. When I was very young the first few caused some anxiety and disorientation did result. After getting used to them, however, the anxiety went away because I understood the pattern and the fact that it was a short duration phenomenon that it didn’t have to interfere with the tasks at hand which is indication that the disorientation was not the result of the migraine but a result of unnecessary anxiety. Many people who have never smoked pot or have had occular migraines have anxiety attacks. I doubt anyone who is on any medication for those attacks is going to be tested for impairment.

    The Food and Drug Administrations guidelines on Marinol use state:

    “Patients receiving treatment with MARINOL® Capsules should be specifically warned not to drive, operate machinery, or engage in any hazardous activity until it is established
    that they are able to tolerate the drug and to perform such tasks safely.”

    In other words, as long as one has a legal prescription and one is experienced enough with the medication one is not considered impaired, and currently, is allowed to drive legally. What problems have any of these people caused?

    There was a recent high profile case in Massachusetts involving a medical marijuana patient that was exploited by anti anti-prohibition forces that used a reefer madness rationale to obtain the conviction of a person who had a reputation for reckless driving similar to a person from Rhode Island who posted his exploits on Facebook where he shot a live video of him going as fast as 116 miles per hour, weaving in and out of traffic. I don’t think there was anything found in his system that the prosecutors could use for a show trial, like the one in Massachusetts. He was only charged with misdemeanors. The person the anti-pot zealots and the police used the “Reefer Madness” false rationale on allowed the D A’s office in Massachusetts to get a much harsher sentence for the person in Massachusetts based on that false rationale. That person was, most likely, no more guilty than the person from R I who was only charged with 2 misdemeanor offenses than the reckless driving, which he certainly should be punished for but not trumped charges on impairment which cannot be proven.

    Recently Randall Rose posted an excellent analysis of the kind of corporate pressure companies like Taser, Inc. put on local governments to find uses for their products. In Europe, and probably soon, here, there is a company called Dräger that has a device called DrugTest 5000 that has spearheaded the invasive random roadside testing employed there. There will be a lot of pressure to use these devices with no more protections against false positives than there will be for people charged by police who can edit video at their discretion. Essentially what has happened in Ireland and the U K is that even infrequent use of cannabis disqualifies a person’s right to drive. That is discrimination pure and simple.

    The implications involved here are simply outrageous. This so called “legalization” scheme is equivalent to what Bob Weir complained about what Grateful Dead shows were turning into – an opportunity for the police to gather together people, many of whom they would arrest and send to jail.

    I’ve known some of the people who are involved with this “legalization” effort. I think the approach will just create newer harms. Cannabis is nothing like alcohol, or even barbiturates, opiates or stimulates, legal or illegal. With the way racial profiling goes on unabated, how will we not have more unjust incarcerations with even harsher consequences considering the proven fact that cannabis usage and impairment are not synonymous with impairment, especially if impairment is based on thc levels long after consumption?

    The kind of security necessary and the enormous amounts of energy that will be needed to grow commercial cannabis, which can be grown as easily as tomatoes are big problems, as well and a stupid way to approach the problem. It’s a plan to make work for very expensive law enforcement to keep their place in a drug war bureaucracy that was created after the alcohol prohibition bureaucracy became redundant after the repeal of alcohol prohibition. It’s going to be another lottery commission with similar fiefdoms and more legalized corruption. Politicians should never be trusted.

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  2. cailin rua

    Sorry about the poorly edited comment. Anyway, here’s the link to that WaPo article that exposes how much bunk the association of cannabis w/ alcohol is:

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  3. cailin rua

    I read something into this article that I read at another blog which doesn’t appear in this account which was this:

    “According to the group, the legislation contains strong provisions aimed at . . . , and funding dedicated to the enforcement of impaired driving laws.”

    It’s strange how that’s omitted in this report. My hastily written reply to this post has no context without that part of the press release.

    Another thing is the “one plant provision”. Massachusetts will allow six. What happens if your “one plant” doesn’t make it?

    This proposal amounts to another example of regressive taxation and “sin” taxation. The total tax on cannabis products will be 30% on top of other inflated costs which will result from providing career opportunities to people in security and law enforcement and all the cost involved with growing in an artificial environment. I don’t think this proposal will be an improvement over the black market that exists now. I think the investors behind this push to legalize will want so much of a return that it will cause the black market to remain a viable competitor.

    The people who will control the “legal market” will be well heeled investors. As things are now, outside of the huge profits going to the big dealers, some of the money involved filters down to those on the street level, many times to people who are close to being indigent. Now it will all go to those wealthy enough to invest in secure facilities that use a great amount of energy, and to those in patronage positions.

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  4. Budget holes across the states, Ohio GOP becomes the Trump Party, and the Maryland Assembly’s “90 days of terror”: US state blog roundup for 7-13 January | USAPP

    […] also looks ahead to the state legislative year, and wonders if 2017 will see a bill to tax and regulate […]

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