End Prohibition
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End Prohibition
Posted by CN Staff on February 24, 2011 at 05:40:57 PT
Source: Brown Daily Herald
Rhode Island -- The coming weeks could bring big changes to Rhode Island's marijuana policy. Not only are state Sen. Joshua Miller, D-Cranston, and Rep. John Edwards, D-Tiverton and Portsmouth, pushing to decriminalize possession of up to one ounce of pot, but the state Department of Health will soon select up to three applicants to open medical marijuana dispensaries. This announcement will begin the state's transition to a medical marijuana system more like California's.We supported decriminalization efforts last spring, and we encourage lawmakers to pass Miller's and Edwards' bills.
As we wrote last year, decriminalization will reduce expenditures on enforcement  Edwards estimates $1 to $4 million in savings, while Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron predicts savings could exceed $10 million  and also allow the criminal justice system to spend more time dealing with greater threats to public safety than someone lighting up a joint.We agree with Edwards that another important reason for decriminalization is the adverse impact criminal penalties can have on youth. It cannot be argued that experimentation with drugs precludes success later in life  see our current president  but a criminal record can significantly hamper a young person's aspirations. We must stop saddling people with impediments to success for possessing a drug that many agree is less harmful than tobacco and alcohol.The state will also benefit from replacing the current medical marijuana structure with one utilizing dispensaries. Currently, those granted the right to use medical marijuana can grow it themselves or buy from a licensed "caregiver." But it can be difficult for patients to find reliable caregivers, some of whom use a medicinal front to grow more plants for illegal sale. And even legal operations make prime targets for robbery, putting citizens at risk.If a bill introduced by Rep. John Carnevale, D-Providence and Johnston, passes, only dispensaries will distribute medicinal marijuana by 2013. Replacing over 2,000 caregivers with a handful of dispensaries will make it easier for the state to prevent crime and abuse and ensure standards of service. But we are concerned with a portion of Carnevale's bill that would put state police instead of the Department of Health in charge of "inspections and records reviews." Patients who are entitled to medicinal marijuana under state law should not have to encounter police at a dispensary  particularly since marijuana possession would remain a federal felony  just as we do not run into cops at a pharmacy.It is disappointing that few public officials are suggesting that the state go further and legalize marijuana. Legalization is more radical than decriminalization, but given Miron's estimate that the state could save upwards of $40 million by doing so, we believe the option should at least receive more serious debate. Miller told the editorial page board that legalization is neither politically realistic nor viable given federal law prohibiting marijuana. But opponents of legalization and federal officials will not be persuaded to reconsider without any proposals on the table.Nevertheless, decriminalization and dispensaries would constitute important progress. Besides the practical benefits these measures promise, they could help reduce the stigma surrounding marijuana that stifles open debate on more ambitious ideas like legalization. We allow adults to responsibly use tobacco and alcohol. Marijuana, which is no more dangerous, should be treated similarly. Editorials are written by The Herald's editorial page board. Source: Brown Daily Herald, The (Brown, RI Edu)Published: Thursday, February 24, 2011Copyright: 2011 The Brown Daily HeraldContact: editorials browndailyherald.comURL:  -- Cannabis  Archives
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