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Moore: Time To Legalize Marijuana

Monday, February 22, 2016

 

It's time for realism. 

Love it or hate it, within the next 10 years, most states will legalize marijuana. One doesn't have to like the reality to acknowledge it. Those states will enjoy the tax revenue of the sale of the product. The concept is no different from the revenue gained from the taxation of cigarettes. 

Count me in the camp that doesn't like it. Drugs are harmful. Yet alcohol, cigarettes, heck, even chemicals found in soda are also.

Recreational use of marijuana will stifle people's productivity. (Artists, please spare me the arguments of how it assists.) 

Freedom

At the same time, America should be free. What business of it is mine if somebody smokes marijuana? The government has no right to control people's lives if they're not bothering others.

Furthermore, one doesn't have to like something to acknowledge that it's going to happen. And the tide has turned. Marijuana will become legal.

With that in mind, we should remember that being first, (or near first) matters. Would Apple be so successful it weren't the first smartphone inventor? Would Budweiser be king without being the first national beer brand?

And would Rhode Island have been one of the wealthiest places in the world during the beginning of The Industrial Revolution if Samuel Slater wasn’t the first person to open up a textile mill in Pawtucket?

Being First

Rhode Island won't be the first state to enact the legalization of marijuana in the nation. Colorado and Washington were first. And it's been a serious boon to their coffers. Last year, the state of Colorado made $135 million from legalization of marijuana. 

Rhode Island would be the first eastern state to legalize it. And we'd benefit (financially) big time. Residents from neighboring states would come here to buy legal marijuana. That would benefit the state's tourism industry.

A study performed by Open Doors Rhode Island found that the state would gain anywhere from $21 million to $82 million in tax revenue from legalization 

Massive Revenue

That's plenty of extra money that could repair bridges and roads or build schools. It would negate the need for Governor Gina Raimondo to raise revenue from taxing medical marijuana, as she's proposed this year.

But this isn't an issue that's just about dollars and cents. This is also a social justice issue. 

According to a an ACLU report from 2013 that looked at data from 2010, black folks in Rhode Island were over two and a half times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white folks--despite similar usage rates. That's a travesty. And it's something that brings shame to our state. This would end that injustice.

Social Justice

"It continues to be an issue that tears apart our community, this war on drugs. It's a key factor why our community is suffering, when we can be keeping people out of jail for something that can be regulated," Jim Vincent, who heads up the local chapter of the NAACP, told GoLocal earlier last week. 

Let's get the revenue out of the pockets of the drug cartels and into state coffers. In the same way the mafia profited from Prohibition so do today's drug dealers. Let's put them out of business.

Given the harmful effects of drug use, the state legislature should earmark a large percentage of the tax revenue to fund educational programs aimed at youngsters to raise awareness about the health dangers. Those programs should also raise awareness about the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption as well. 

Educational Programs

Let's face it: Most parents don't want their children smoking marijuana. (In the same respect, they shouldn't want them drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes either.)

All things considered, the legalization of marijuana is inevitable, will be profitable for our state, and will end the unjust War on Drugs. For those reasons, the state would be prudent to get ahead of the times and move forward with a reasonable plan to tax and regulate marijuana. Can we be ahead of the curve for a change? Let’s be first again.

Russell Moore has worked on both sides of the desk in Rhode Island media, both on political campaigns and for newspapers. Follow him on twitter @russmoore713. Send him email at [email protected]

 

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