Will Rhode Island Be The Next State To Legalize Weed?

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USA Today thinks there’s a good chance.

rhodeislandmarijuana300Marijuana is on the march. Despite a federal prohibition on the drug that dates back 78 years, it appears that the tide is turning. Four states (Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington…and Washington DC) have legalized recreational use of the ganja. In an article titled “The next 11 states to legalize marijuana“, USA Today(well, technically 24/7 Wall St.) took at a look at the next states that might give pot a shot.

A quick glance through the list of the 11(which don’t seem to be ranked in any particular order) reveals one state we’re all very familiar with…

9. Rhode Island

> Max. fine for small amount: $150
> Marijuana related arrests in 2012: 2,320
> Marijuana arrests per 100,000: 221
> Minimum penalty classification : Civil violation

Marijuana use in the small New England state is pervasive. An estimated 20% of Rhode Islanders aged 12 and up used the drug at least once in 2012. No other state in the country had wider use.

Of the states that have not legalized recreational marijuana use, Rhode Island’s laws are among the most lenient. Possession of up to an ounce is a civil violation punishable by a maximum fine of $150. First time offenders do not face jail time or risk a criminal record. However, possession of amounts in excess of an ounce carry criminal penalties and potential jail time.

There is currently a bill awaiting review in the state legislature that would effectively legalize and regulate recreational use of marijuana. Though the Rhode Island legislature went on summer recess before the Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act received final approval, lawmakers may have a chance to review the bill again before year’s end. According to an April 2015 poll conducted by Public Policy Polling, 57% of respondents in the state support changing the law to regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol.

Of course, there are quite a few other New England states on the list too. Sleepy Connecticut, super-liberal Massachusetts and Vermont(…wait, how has hippie commune Vermont NOT legalized weed yet? We’re guessing that the legislature was going to pass a bill…but then they got high…) are all listed in the article.

So what’s the rational path for Rhode Island to take?

Legalize, regulate and tax…ASAP.

We have to accept that if there’s one thing that Rhode Islanders are good at, it’s smoking the reefer. According to a recent survey, RI has the highest percentage of pot smokers of any state. We’re also a state whose economy is heavily dependent on tourism (and a lot of that is the “partying” kind of tourism).

So in a rehash of the casino debate, we’re in a race with our neighboring states for liberty and tax dollars…or “to the bottom” (depending on your perspective).

Chances are, we may enjoy a small window where we have legalized weed while our neighbors don’t…but given the financial state of the state, can we really afford to let that pass by?

hippiesAs for the downsides…we’re probably inoculated from them, given that everyone who would be enjoying the sensi is already enjoying the sensi. Sure, we might get a few more dirty hippies rolling into the state in their ’67 VW Microbuses…but once they discover the state’s cost-of-living, they’ll head back to Vermont or upstate New York or wherever.

Rhode Island is a flawed state with flawed a flawed population, but it’s time to stop thinking that a drug prohibition is going to make this a better place with better people.

One last point, however…

Why do Rhode Islanders support legalizing the herb, while our lawmakers are doing to much to restrict and criminalize tobacco (most recently to ban smoking on Newport beaches and the Cliff Walk)? Just something to think about…

-Tristan Pinnock, Blast Mary Jane Correspondent

Tristan's just this guy, ya know?