Rhode Island’s governor calls for legalization

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Rhode Island’s governor calls for legalization

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Thor Benson / Cannabis News Box Contributor

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo is officially calling for her state to legalize cannabis. She told Rhode Island’s Providence Journal recently that she has resisted legalization efforts in the past but that it’s now time to legalize.

“Things have changed, mainly because all of our neighbors are moving forward,” she said. “We’re not an island, in fact. Like it or not, we’re going to be incurring public safety and public health expenses because it’s legal in Massachusetts… And I think it is time for us to put together our own regulatory and taxing framework.”

Though this has taken longer than legalization advocates in Rhode Island would have liked, they’re excited that Raimondo is finally changing her tune. Regardless of how it ended up happening, they see this as a win for the state.

“It does seem that we’re seeing a ‘domino effect’ in the Northeast and New England,” Jared Moffat, Rhode Island political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, told Cannabis News Box. “Gov. Raimondo is pointing to progress on marijuana policy reform in neighboring states as a key reason for her proposal to legalize marijuana in Rhode Island. The states within this region are interlinked in many ways, and a lot of folks sees that legalization in one area cannot be ignored by others.”

Moffat said the black market is bad for Rhode Island, and creating a regulated, legal market will benefit the state. He said the state could also really use the revenue that will be created by taxing cannabis sales.

“Prohibition has facilitated the creation of an illicit marijuana market that undermines public health and safety,” Moffat said. “It has also contributed to thousands of individuals becoming involved in the criminal justice system simply for possessing a substance that is objectively safer than alcohol. Legalization effectively ends prohibition and addresses those problems. Furthermore, by regulating and taxing marijuana, the state can create additional safeguards on the production of marijuana and generate revenue to address other needs in the state.”

Advocates haven’t yet been able to see what Gov. Raimondo is proposing specifically when it comes to how the state will legalize and regulate cannabis, but they’re looking forward to debating the details. Moffat said the top two priorities will be avoiding cannabis monopolies and helping heal the harm done by the War on Drugs, especially for communities of color.

“Our biggest priorities include making sure that the market is not controlled by only a handful of powerful players and ensuring there are provisions to address historical injustices of prohibition, particularly as they have impacted communities of color,” Moffat said. “We also hope there will be an appetite among legislators for reconsidering the ban on home cultivation, which we believe is not justified.”