I came across two cannabis stories this weekend. The first was about Colorado, the epicenter of the legalization movement, which saw 18,000 new jobs and $2.4 billion in economic activity thanks to taxing and regulating marijuana. The other was about Humboldt County, California, the epicenter of the underground marijuana market, where sex crimes have seemingly become part and parcel of this unregulated economy.
Legalization is not just a social and economic issue, it is also a safety and justice issue.
By not acting to legalize marijuana, Rhode Island is choosing the Humboldt County model of crime and abuse rather than the Colorado model of growth and accountability. Rhode Island leaders are literally allowing the sexual exploitation of young women to fester when the anecdote is huge public and private sector profits.
Massachusetts, on the other hand, gave its residents the ability to choose the Colorado model in a voter referendum question on its state ballot. Rhode Island made a conscious decision to follow Massachusetts on this issue. If the Bay State votes to tax and regulate cannabis, Rhode Island elected leaders have said the Ocean State will follow suit. If Massachusetts rejects legal marijuana, both the Bay State and the Ocean State will continue along with the Humboldt County model.