Marijuana Legalization in Rhode Island Gaining New Detractors, Supporters

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


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The issue of whether or not to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol in Rhode Island is gaining additional detractors -- and continued staunch supporters. 

Following GoLocal's interviews with former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, who is an opponent, and RegulateRI's Jared Moffat, who is the Marijuana Policy Project's $50,000 a year lobbyist in favor of legalization, more groups are continuing to join the debate. 

The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity just stated it would be "reckless" to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in the state.

"While public discussion has focused on revenues, underground markets vs regulated markets, incarceration rates, and forms of strict regulation, the Center believes that the potential impact on families and on society have been a glaring omission in the statewide debate," explained the advocacy organization in their statement.

"How would any family benefit from increased use or abuse of any substance," said the Center's CEO, Mike Stenhouse. "We must put the interests of minors, families, and overall society above all other considerations."

Pointing to Reports

The Center claims that "conflicting data" from studies of Colorado, Washington and other states that have previously legalized recreational marijuana use has created an "unclear picture" of the short-term and long-term effects.

Michael Cerullo, who is a private psychotherapist who founded "What's the Rush RI" in opposition to legalization, offered the following:

"The research shows that there are major potential risks to individuals and to society, but we cannot yet accurately quantify the actual scope of these concerns. This is why we need more time to study the issue. We should not recklessly move forward until we know with more certainty where we are headed," said Cerullo.

"As Patrick Kennedy recently warned, increased use of marijuana could indeed lead to increased opioid and other substance abuse. Already with a statewide illicit drug use problem, there is simply too big a risk for families for Rhode Island to act at this time" added Cerullo.

Pointing to Trump

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Mike Stenhouse

Broaching what it calls the "unresolved question" of enforcement of federal marijuana prohibitions, the Center posed whether Rhode Island would be putting itself in legal jeopardy by rushing to legalize the drug, after the Trump administration signaled in late February that it is considering stricter enforcement of existing federal marijuana laws.

The Center recommended a two-year commission study and reporting period for more research on legalization, which they say is in keeping with the Rand Corporation's view that it will not be until 2020 that people will "fully see what changes take place in use, revenue, black market activity, big marijuana industry behavior and in downstream treatment, public health and safety trends."

Progressives to Up Pressure in Favor

Meanwhile, the Rhode Island Progressive Democrats of America's Bill DeWare let supporters know that the group will be actively trying to garner support from the state. 

"We are looking for [Rhode Island] to legalize marijuana and expect our Progressive legislators to be on board with that. We will be out canvassing for that as well," wrote DeWare this week.


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