Governor Gina Raimondo and House Speaker Nick Mattiello have both indicated they are open-minded to taxing and regulating marijuana this legislative session. Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, on the other hand, said she remains skeptical.
“I do remain concerned about the potential health affects,” she said before the start of the Senate session on Thursday. “We just recently decriminalized marijuana.”
She said the potential revenue should not be a compelling reason to end marijuana prohibition.
“Revenue is something that always gets people’s attention, she said. “However I believe that the decision to legalize marijuana should be made in conjunction with law enforcement and our health officials and not be revenue driven.”
Jared Moffat, of Regulate Rhode Island, the advocacy group pushing for legalization, said skepticism allows drug dealers to maintain control of the marijuana market.
“We don’t need to ‘wait and see’ any longer to know that prohibition is the worst possible policy for marijuana,” Moffat said. “Prohibition simply ensures that marijuana will be sold in an unregulated, dangerous illicit market. It’s time to take control away from illegal dealers and put marijuana behind the counter of legitimate businesses where it can be taxed, controlled, and regulated.”
Paiva Weed represents Newport (and Jamestown), a city driven by a tourism economy that would certainly see benefits from legal marijuana. But Newport voters recently rejected a local referendum that would have allowed Newport Grand to have table games, thus making it more of a traditional casino. It’s unclear if Newporters are similarly opposed to ending marijuana prohibition as they have been to expanding gambling.