ARLENE VIOLET - State is addicted to addicts

ARLENE VIOLET - State is addicted to addicts

In an effort to find money for the burgeoning state budget, Gov. Gina Raimondo is proposing to legalize recreational marijuana. She projects that the state would receive $14.3 million in gross revenue by the end of fiscal year 2020 after an outlay of $3.5 million to get the business up and running. Attorney Gen. Peter Neronha is correct in raising concerns about its implementation. He notes that the proposal should require strong regulations to protect public health and safety and prevent children from accessing the drug. He is joined by the R.I. Association of Police Chiefs in urging caution, not that anyone on Smith Hill is really listening. They only see green.

Ho hum! Here we go again. Rather than curb the state’s appetite for rapacious spending, leaders will do just about anything to get more money to spend. Unlike alcohol, which can be detected on impaired drivers, no such “Breathalyzer” test presently exists to determine impaired driving because of the high from too much weed. Yet, despite the dubious driving which already abounds in the state, officials are ready to add potheads into the mix. No approval should be given until appropriate detection is in place, regardless of what other states risk.

Multiple studies exist that say young men’s brains do not fully develop until about age 26. No matter. The state isn’t looking for Einsteins. Maybe Generation X shouldn’t be too smart lest they see the flaws in government.

The most annoying argument is that legalized drugs will prevent black market cannabis from being purveyed. Hardly. Usually the state-sponsored dope costs more. Further, after a while the sub rosa market will market its bhang by scoffing at the “kiddie stuff” sold statewide as opposed to their designer roach which will pack a punch.

Policy wise, there is something disconcerting about making money off bad habits. It’s no accident that the governor is advocating the tax hike from $4.25 to $4.50 per pack for cigarette smokers. Senate President Ruggerio is cheerleading the effort to allow sports betting via the internet. The state seems awash in sin taxes. Where would the state coffers be without addicts? In a recent Colorado study, where marijuana was legalized a few years back, almost 30 percent of the heaviest pot users comprised 87.1 percent of demand for the drug.

Certainly, medical marijuana is supportable so the real issue is the sanction on recreational pot. Earlier the concerns of Neronha were noted but it should also be pointed out that he also supports the contention that the current drug and criminal justice policies are far too punitive and costly, helping to contribute to the mass incarceration of Americans. During my tenure as Attorney General, mere possession cases were routinely filed following addiction treatment.

Adding to the drug culture is the epidemic of opioid abuse. Sensible steps have to be taken to deter this growing problem. It seems a little silly to add another class of drug uses as a matter of public policy because we want the taxes.

It’s almost as if we’ve given up the ghost on addiction raised by the above proposals to legalize marijuana and extend online sports gambling in the name of raising revenue. The social costs are much higher. Negligible money is set aside now for gambling addiction. Query about how tight the purse strings will be for new addictions.

Violet is an attorney and former state attorney general.

Comments

There’s nothing wrong with “sin taxes” per se. They're intended to have somewhat of a discouraging effect. That's part of the point, and it's not a new idea. Taxes on liquor were a major source of U.S. federal income in the 18th and 19th century.
 
What exactly is being advocated here? Should we LOWER cigarette taxes? (Yikes.) Should Rhode Island keep marijuana illegal while Massachusetts and Connecticut collect taxes from it? (Worst of both worlds.) Should we return to the good old days when gambling was run by the Mafia? Ah, the good old days.

"Multiple studies exist that say young men’s brains do not fully develop until about age 26." No, there aren’t “multiple" studies, and this is a misunderstanding of long-known info about the pre-frontal cortex. Anti-marijuana hysteria is pretty much the ONLY context in which this (deliberately?) misleading factoid is ever cited. And I’ve noticed how the age mysteriously keeps creeping up: a few years ago it was 24, then it was 25, suddenly it's 26! Should we raise the voting age, drinking age, driving age, marriage age, to 26? Should we raise the military enlistment age to 26?

For most of human history, the average lifespan was only about 30.

“Maybe Generation X shouldn’t be too smart lest they see the flaws in government.” Uh, Generation X is the generation OLDER than millennials but younger than boomers. Gen X are those around age 50 now.

Arlene, it sounds like you have no real world experience with cannabis. Recreational or Medically. How can you pass judgement on something you don't know anything about. Do you know how many people die every years from opioids in this state? Do you have a Problem with CVS, Walgreens and Rite aide? Do you have a problem with a liquor store on every corner that sell an additive product? Fear about Cannabis means a lack of knowledge about Cannabis. Stop the fear mongering and get some education on the topic. Then you can compare it to the other vices in society. I'd love to see that editorial with actual number to back you story. Please include the total Number of deaths each year for all. Cigarettes? Alcohol? Opioids? Cannabis? The last one is 0. Your generation may be afraid of Cannabis but your generation is loosing it's political power due to age. (Nothing Personal) Your Generation is also the largest growing segment of medical Cannabis users. The younger generation is filling the void politically and they embrace cannabis. Please stop Fear Mongering.