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Guest MINDSETTERS™: A Sensible Marijuana Policy for Rhode Island

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


Marijuana policy reform is a hot topic these days in Rhode Island and across the country. Over the last three years, we’ve been discussing the issue with constituents, colleagues, opinion leaders and activists on both sides of the issue. Our conversations have led us to two points of agreement:

-Our current marijuana policy has failed. For instance, studies indicate an increase in youth marijuana use and that it is easy for them to get it.

-Most Rhode Islanders are ready for change.

A survey conducted last month by Public Policy Polling reinforced our conclusions, finding that a solid majority of Rhode Island voters support taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol, allowing adults over the age of 21 to use it. These results are right in line with several national polls that indicate a rapidly growing majority of Americans agree it is time to make marijuana legal.

“A Failure of Tragic Proportions”

Marijuana prohibition has been a failure of tragic proportions. It has failed to prevent use or abuse. It has been a distraction for law enforcement officials who should be focusing elsewhere. Marijuana prohibition has resulted in criminal records for thousands of otherwise law-abiding adults and limited the ability of too many of our young people to access financial aid for higher education. Insidiously, this prohibition has forced marijuana sales into an underground market where more dangerous products such as heroin and cocaine are also offered. Ironically, prohibition ensures that the state has no control over the product. Criminals fight over the profits and our state and municipalities forego millions of dollars of tax revenue.

Rep. Edith H. Ajello (D-Dist. 1, Providence), chairwoman of the House Judiciary Committee

It is for these reasons that we support regulating and taxing marijuana as we regulate and tax alcohol, and approaching marijuana as a public health matter rather than a criminal justice problem. We can mandate that marijuana be properly tested and labeled so that consumers know what they are getting. We can restrict sales to minors and ensure that those who sell marijuana are asking for proof of age. We can collect tens of millions of dollars in much-needed tax revenue and foster the creation of new businesses and jobs in an emerging industry.

Prevention and Treatment

Importantly, we can redirect our drug prevention and treatment resources toward addressing the abuse of more harmful drugs such as methamphetamine, heroin and prescription narcotics. We can urge teens to stay away from marijuana until their brains are fully developed.

Those who wish to maintain our current prohibition laws often claim marijuana is a “gateway drug” that will inevitably lead to the use of other drugs, but studies suggest otherwise. According to a 1999 study commissioned by the White House and performed by the Institute of Medicine, marijuana “does not appear to be a gateway drug to the extent that it is the cause or even that it is the most significant predictor of serious drug abuse.”

Marijuana’s illegal status creates the gateway. By forcing marijuana consumers into the underground market, we dramatically increase the possibility that they will be exposed to more dangerous substances. Separating marijuana from the illicit drug markets while reducing exposure to more addictive and dangerous substances cannot help but reduce any gateway effect associated with marijuana use. Customers buying a bottle of wine for dinner are not, after all, offered heroin.

Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence), chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee

Regulating marijuana will take the product out of the hands of criminal enterprises and place it behind counters of legitimate businesses that safely and responsibly sell marijuana - and marijuana only - to adults 21 and older.

Under marijuana prohibition, illicit profits are used to fund violent gangs, illegal gun markets, human trafficking, and other violent trades. Regulating marijuana will allow us to redirect marijuana sales revenue away from the violent criminal market and toward a meaningful solution. A large portion of tax revenue derived from wholesale transactions will fund programs preventing and treating the abuse of alcohol and other substances. According to federal government data, nearly 2.5 percent of Rhode Islanders needed treatment for hard drugs in 2012 but did not receive it. The recent spike in drug overdose deaths is a stark reminder of the need for treatment and education.

Most people recognize that marijuana prohibition’s days are numbered. The question is now “when should we end it?” not “should we?” Like most Rhode Islanders, we believe now is the time and regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol is the answer.

Rep. Edith H. Ajello (D-Dist. 1, Providence), chairwoman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence), chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, are the sponsors of legislation to regulate and tax marijuana in Rhode Island.


Related Slideshow: New England States with Highest Marijuana Arrest Rates

Prev Next

6. Massachusetts

National Rank for Arrests per Capita: 51

2010 Arrests Per Capita: 18

National Rank for Raw Arrests: 49

2010 Raw Arrests: 1,191

Photo: Flickr/Blind Nomad

Prev Next

5. Vermont

National Rank for Arrests per Capita: 48

2010 Arrests Per Capita: 119

National Rank for Raw Arrests: 51

2010 Raw Arrests: 737

Photo: Flickr/Victor

Prev Next

4. New Hampshire

National Rank for Arrests per Capita: 33

2010 Arrests Per Capita: 210

National Rank for Raw Arrests: 41

2010 Raw Arrests: 2,769

Photo: Flickr/Blind Nomad

Prev Next

3. Rhode Island

National Rank for Arrests per Capita: 31

2010 Arrests Per Capita: 214

National Rank for Raw Arrests: 43

2010 Raw Arrests: 2,243

Prev Next

2. Maine

National Rank for Arrests per Capita: 30

2010 Arrests Per Capita: 214

National Rank for Raw Arrests: 40

2010 Raw Arrests: 2,842

Prev Next

1. Connecticut

National Rank for Arrests per Capita: 23

2010 Arrests Per Capita: 247

National Rank for Raw Arrests: 25

2010 Raw Arrests: 8,815

Prev Next

Number One Overall

Washington D.C.

National Rank for Arrests per Capita: 1

2010 Arrests Per Capita: 846

National Rank for Raw Arrests: 34

2010 Raw Arrests: 5,115

Photo: Flickr/Torben Hansen


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No thanks! We have enough to worry about. If you think kids can get it easy now, wait until it floods the area. Great new slogan. "Come to Rhode Island/Providence, You can drink and smoke at our underaged Clubs"!! Bring jobs to RI you idiots!!

Comment #1 by lupe fiasco on 2014 02 18

This article is so full of mistruths and fact-free opinion that it isn't funny. "Marijuana’s illegal status creates the gateway." Seriously?

Sorry--we don't need more overweight, lethargic people that prefer to avoid reality and/or more impaired drivers on the road in this state. Find something else to tax that won't negatively affect our children's future.

Comment #2 by Jimmy LaRouche on 2014 02 18

10 Cannabis Studies the Government Wished It Never Funded.

10) MARIJUANA USE HAS NO EFFECT ON MORTALITY: A massive study of California HMO members funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) found marijuana use caused no significant increase in mortality. Tobacco use was associated with increased risk of death. Sidney, S et al. Marijuana Use and Mortality. American Journal of Public Health. Vol. 87 No. 4, April 1997. p. 585-590. Sept. 2002.

9) HEAVY MARIJUANA USE AS A YOUNG ADULT WON’T RUIN YOUR LIFE: Veterans Affairs scientists looked at whether heavy marijuana use as a young adult caused long-term problems later, studying identical twins in which one twin had been a heavy marijuana user for a year or longer but had stopped at least one month before the study, while the second twin had used marijuana no more than five times ever. Marijuana use had no significant impact on physical or mental health care utilization, health-related quality of life, or current socio-demographic characteristics. Eisen SE et al. Does Marijuana Use Have Residual Adverse Effects on Self-Reported Health Measures, Socio-Demographics or Quality of Life? A Monozygotic Co-Twin Control Study in Men. Addiction. Vol. 97 No. 9. p.1083-1086. Sept. 1997

8) THE “GATEWAY EFFECT” MAY BE A MIRAGE: Marijuana is often called a “gateway drug” by supporters of prohibition, who point to statistical “associations” indicating that persons who use marijuana are more likely to eventually try hard drugs than those who never use marijuana – implying that marijuana use somehow causes hard drug use. But a model developed by RAND Corp. researcher Andrew Morral demonstrates that these associations can be explained “without requiring a gateway effect.” More likely, this federally funded study suggests, some people simply have an underlying propensity to try drugs, and start with what’s most readily available. Morral AR, McCaffrey D and Paddock S. Reassessing the Marijuana Gateway Effect. Addiction. December 2002. p. 1493-1504.

7) PROHIBITION DOESN’T WORK (PART I): The White House had the National Research Council examine the data being gathered about drug use and the effects of U.S. drug policies. NRC concluded, “the nation possesses little information about the effectiveness of current drug policy, especially of drug law enforcement.” And what data exist show “little apparent relationship between severity of sanctions prescribed for drug use and prevalence or frequency of use.” In other words, there is no proof that prohibition – the cornerstone of U.S. drug policy for a century – reduces drug use. National Research Council. Informing America’s Policy on Illegal Drugs: What We Don’t Know Keeps Hurting Us. National Academy Press, 2001. p. 193. (http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10021&page=193)

6) PROHIBITION DOESN’T WORK (PART II): DOES PROHIBITION CAUSE THE “GATEWAY EFFECT”?): U.S. and Dutch researchers, supported in part by NIDA, compared marijuana users in San Francisco, where non-medical use remains illegal, to Amsterdam, where adults may possess and purchase small amounts of marijuana from regulated businesses. Looking at such parameters as frequency and quantity of use and age at onset of use, they found no differences except one: Lifetime use of hard drugs was significantly lower in Amsterdam, with its “tolerant” marijuana policies. For example, lifetime crack cocaine use was 4.5 times higher in San Francisco than Amsterdam. Reinarman, C, Cohen, PDA, and Kaal, HL. The Limited Relevance of Drug Policy: Cannabis in Amsterdam and San Francisco. American Journal of Public Health. Vol. 94, No. 5. May 2004. p. 836-842. (http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.94.5.836?journalCode=ajph)

5) OOPS, MARIJUANA MAY PREVENT CANCER (PART I): Federal researchers implanted several types of cancer, including leukemia and lung cancers, in mice, then treated them with cannabinoids (unique, active components found in marijuana). THC and other cannabinoids shrank tumors and increased the mice’s lifespans. Munson, AE et al. Antineoplastic Activity of Cannabinoids. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Sept. 1975. p. 597-602. (http://drugpolicycentral.com/bot/pg/cancer/THC_cancer_sep_1975.htm)

4) OOPS, MARIJUANA MAY PREVENT CANCER, (PART II): In a 1994 study the government tried to suppress, federal researchers gave mice and rats massive doses of THC, looking for cancers or other signs of toxicity. The rodents given THC lived longer and had fewer cancers, “in a dose-dependent manner” (i.e. the more THC they got, the fewer tumors). NTP Technical Report On The Toxicology And Carcinogenesis Studies Of 1-Trans- Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol, CAS No. 1972-08-3, In F344/N Rats And B6C3F Mice, Gavage Studies. See also, “Medical Marijuana: Unpublished Federal Study Found THC-Treated Rats Lived Longer, Had Less Cancer,” AIDS Treatment News no. 263, Jan. 17, 1997. (source on web)

3) OOPS, MARIJUANA MAY PREVENT CANCER (PART III): Researchers at the Kaiser-Permanente HMO, funded by NIDA, followed 65,000 patients for nearly a decade, comparing cancer rates among non-smokers, tobacco smokers, and marijuana smokers. Tobacco smokers had massively higher rates of lung cancer and other cancers. Marijuana smokers who didn’t also use tobacco had no increase in risk of tobacco-related cancers or of cancer risk overall. In fact their rates of lung and most other cancers were slightly lower than non-smokers, though the difference did not reach statistical significance. Sidney, S. et al. Marijuana Use and Cancer Incidence (California, United States). Cancer Causes and Control. Vol. 8. Sept. 1997, p. 722-728. (http://www.thebody.com/content/art31497.html#medmar)

2) OOPS, MARIJUANA MAY PREVENT CANCER (PART IV): Donald Tashkin, a UCLA researcher whose work is funded by NIDA, did a case-control study comparing 1,200 patients with lung, head and neck cancers to a matched group with no cancer. Even the heaviest marijuana smokers had no increased risk of cancer, and had somewhat lower cancer risk than non-smokers (tobacco smokers had a 20-fold increased lung cancer risk). Tashkin D. Marijuana Use and Lung Cancer: Results of a Case-Control Study. American Thoracic Society International Conference. May 23, 2006.

1) MARIJUANA DOES HAVE MEDICAL VALUE: In response to passage of California’s medical marijuana law, the White House had the Institute of Medicine (IOM) review the data on marijuana’s medical benefits and risks. The IOM concluded, “Nausea, appetite loss, pain and anxiety are all afflictions of wasting, and all can be mitigated by marijuana.” While noting potential risks of smoking, the report acknowledged there is no clear alternative for people suffering from chronic conditions that might be relieved by smoking marijuana, such as pain or AIDS wasting. The government’s refusal to acknowledge this finding caused co-author John A. Benson to tell the New York Times that the government loves to ignore our report; they would rather it never happened. (Joy, JE, Watson, SJ, and Benson, JA. Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base. National Academy Press. 1999. p. 159. See also, Harris, G. FDA Dismisses Medical Benefit From Marijuana. New York Times. Apr. 21, 2006) (http://www.csdp.org/news/news/nyt_fdamedmj_042106.htm)

Comment #3 by Mike Davis on 2014 02 18

You two sound like broken records regurgitating the same sensationalist nonsense.

The only argument the anti-legalization movement has left, besides the gateway theory, is that legalizing will hurt kids in some undefined, abstract way or that it "sends the wrong message". Even if that were true, why don't parents take the time to make sure the right messages do reach their kids by being good parents? Parents pretend like they have no control over how their kids wind up and always look for scapegoats. Marijuana and drugs are just one of them. Sometimes it's violent video games, before it was rock music. Maybe parents just need to try to be more present in their children's lives and everyone would be much better off.

Comment #4 by Mike Davis on 2014 02 18

Driving deaths due to drug intoxication are surging in Colorado, a "dope legal" state. These two hacks are more concerned with tax revenue than people's lives. Hey hacks, they don't call it "DOPE" for nothing.

Comment #5 by G Godot on 2014 02 19

Marijuana doesn't make you wreck your car-

Subjects show almost identical driving skills just before and just after smoking marijuana, according to a study published in the March 2010 issue of the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs.

​Investigators from Hartford Hospital in Connecticut and the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine measured the simulated driving performance of 85 people in a double-blind, placebo controlled trial.

Volunteers responded to various simulated events associated with auto crash risk, such as avoiding a driver who was entering an intersection illegally, deciding to stop or go through a changing traffic light, responding to the presence of emergency vehicles, avoiding colliding with a dog who entered into traffic, and maintaining safe driving during a secondary (in-the-car) sound distraction.

Test subjects performed the tests sober, and then again 30 minutes after smoking a joint containing either 2.9 percent THC or a placebo joint with no THC.

The volunteers performed virtually the same after smoking marijuana as they did sober and/or after smoking bunk pot. "No differences were found during the baseline driving segment (and the) collision avoidance scenarios," the scientists reported.


The truth is no one knows the effects legalization has had or will have on Colorado. Anyone who says they do is lying. It's going to be at least a year before we can step back and look at the big picture. Stop spreading drivel and go have a drink, you hypocrite.

Comment #6 by Mike Davis on 2014 02 19

Soon the above jackwagons will tell you that DOPE is GOOD for kids.

Comment #7 by G Godot on 2014 02 21

Why, I wonder, is the House Judiciary Committee chaired by someone who never set foot in a law school and couldn't find the courthouse with both hands.

Comment #8 by G Godot on 2014 02 21

No one who supports legalization would ever say it's okay for kids to use, but that won't stop mental midgets like you though from saying otherwise.

Comment #9 by Mike Davis on 2014 02 21

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