There is little doubt that that Rhode Island will one day regulate marijuana like alcohol. The political winds are just too strong. The nation supports it. And we are a solid blue state. Even among the few Republicans, Ron Paul scored better here than he did in all but two other primaries. The real question for marijuana reform is not if but when.
Sadly, it looks like the tax and regulate bill will not move this legislative session.
One of the most common arguments I have heard for delaying a move to sensible marijuana regulation is that we need to wait to see how decriminalization gets implemented here in Rhode Island and to see how legalization works out in Washington and Colorado. I find that attitude shortsighted and slightly heartless.
The crises caused by the drug war are very real and very immediate. While decriminalization is a sensible step that eases the pain, it does little to alleviate the damage done by the black market. Under decriminalization, we continue to subsidize the largest organized crime operation on the planet, the Mexican drug cartels. We may not consider the slaughter south of the border to be a major concern, but I assure you, few things matter more to the people of Mexico. And if we ever hope to secure our borders, we cannot continue to subsidize the gangs that make our southern border such a lawless place.
The effects are felt at home as well. Marijuana money fuels gang violence on our streets, too. It still absorbs severely limited police resources. And most importantly, marijuana continues to be used without any regulation whatsoever.
This means there are no controls on purity or additives. I have had many friends who have inadvertently and unwillingly ingested cocaine, tobacco, and other dangerous drugs because they were secretly mixed with marijuana.
This means there is no labeling of potency. Marijuana users have relatively little idea how large the dose they are ingesting is, making safe and responsible use much more difficult.
This means there is no restriction on youth access. Drug dealers do not card their clients.
Most of the many sensible regulations in this bill would be impossible without a legal framework to operate under.
A second reason not to delay moving to a regulated marijuana regime is economic. Many of the jobs in the East Coast marijuana industry will be located in the first state that allows those jobs in. If we are the first adopters, we will maintain an advantage in this industry for decades. And I hardly need to tell you how desperately we need jobs. It does not help to delay them.
Nor do I need to tell you how urgently the revenue in this bill is needed to address the fiscal problems plaguing our state.
We must act now to end the black market. We must act now to create jobs. We must act now to help mend our fiscal mess. For once, Rhode Island should take the lead on something good.