Marijuana Legalization Because of or In Spite of Drug Tourism

Dan McGowan of GoLocalProv has a short round-up of the background and momentum that will be leading into a 2013 Rhode Island General Assembly debate on legalizing non-medical use of marijuana; the article mentions that House Judiciary Chairwoman Edith Ajello thinks there is support in the GA not just for “decriminalization” but for full “legalization” (RI decriminalized possession of an ounce or less of marijuana last year).
The American Interest has published a guide to the policy issues surrounding marijuana legalization including multiple lines of reasoning that will very likely be directly discussed in any RI debate on the subject…

A principal motivation for legalization has been its potential to generate tax revenues. [Colorado’s Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act] CO-LA specifies that the first $40 million raised by its excise tax would be credited to the public school capital construction fund. That figure suggests unrealistic expectations; unless state-level legalization tripled Colorado’s cannabis use, the tax receipts from sales to Coloradans wouldn’t even total that much, especially since the law would exempt medical users from paying taxes and such users account for about a quarter of Colorado’s current regular marijuana users. (Under CO-LA, medical dispensaries would be like “duty-free” shops at airports.) However, there are about fifty times as many marijuana users elsewhere in the United States as there are in Colorado. That, ultimately, is why Federal authorities would not be able to ignore the matter.
“Drug tourism” (users coming to Colorado to buy) could generate significant economic benefits, though not nearly as much as it might for an eastern state with more populous neighbors.

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OldTimeLefty
9 years ago

Legalization should not rest upon generation of tax revenues. That it would generate them is not questionable. The quibble is how much revenue would be generated.
Legalization should proceed on the grounds that an overwhelming portion of the population actually engages in marijuana use which currently makes a huge percentage (the majority?) of Rhode Islanders scoff laws. It is poor polity to have a large proportion of the population routinely ignoring laws.
The solution is legalization. There’s little doubt that legalization would pass a referendum. The tax revenue argument is a poor attempt to tidy over the real problem which is failure to recognize that much (most?) of the population uses marijuana, and uses it recreationally.
OldTimeLefty

Dan
Dan
9 years ago

OTL – Unlike some malcontents, such as yourself, I always give credit where credit is due. You have presented here a sound argument for legalization, and you are correct that taxation is not the philosophically principled matter at issue. However, don’t be so pure that you are looking a gift horse in the mouth. If the few scientifically backwards and hypocritical conservatives who continue to oppose marijuana legalization need to justify it to themselves on a “revenue-generation” basis, just smile and nod. Be thankful that Rhode Island is moving in the right direction in at least one area.

Phil
Phil
9 years ago

There is already tax revenue being generated by the medical marijuana law in RI. Small indoor manufacters rely on the equipment now being sold and taxed in retail stores that specialize in indoor growing products. The area of growth involving tourism may be unmeasurable but full legalization would provide tourists to the state with another reason to come here rather than somewhere else.

OldTimeLefty
9 years ago

Dan,
Thanks for your lefthanded (does that make you a progressive?) compliment.
FYI I am very content with the national election result. Happy that Obama is president, feeling good that Romney has shown his true self as narrow and out of touch.
Happy Thanksgiving. Looking forward to the new year – Forward, get it?
OldTimeLefty
OldTimeLefty

Monique
Monique(@monique-chartier)
Editor
9 years ago

“could generate significant economic benefits, though not nearly as much as it might for an eastern state with more populous neighbors.”
And generate more criminal tourists into the state, who won’t necessarily limit what they bring in their luggage to “legal” substances.
I’m not impressed with the “Look, more revenue!” aspect of legalizing cannibis, either. “New” revenue never, ever replaces current revenue. Politicians just find new, dubious things to spend it on. Not to mention that Rhode Island has some of the highest taxes in the country, clearly demonstrating that we very much have a spending, not a “revenue”, problem.

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
9 years ago

I suspect the revenue issue is simply a means of cloaking the actual desire which is legalization. I realized that the “war on drugs” was hopeless when a banker offered me a joint, that was at least 20 years ago.

Mike
Mike
9 years ago

Revenue is questionable. If it is legalized, people will grow their own or get it on the grey market from the neighborhood pothead.
OTL…I’m glad you are happy with the current administration, who are on the road to being exposed as liars and charlatans. In the coming days of record unemployment and increasing crime and unrest, I hope you are also prepared for what you have brought upon yourself.

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
9 years ago

Mike,
“…the current administration, who are on the road to being exposed as liars and charlatans. In the coming days of record unemployment…”
I was listening to Obama Radio (NPR) yesterday. The “talent” was chortling over all those people at Hostess losing their jobs; they deserved no less for making all of that poisonous food. Remember the “Twinkie defense”? I suppose that is gone forever; just when we may need it the most.

helen
helen
9 years ago

People,
It’s a fricking weed that has been politicized. Why would it be politicized,oh,revenues…
It’s a weed,that’s all.
It gives you a little buzz like a coupla glasses of wine.
I don’t smoke the wacky weed but I’m old enough that I did way back when. Oh,that Hendrix concert at the old RI Auditorium,you got high walking in the door. So it isn’t about the effects,that’s nonsense,it’s about money.
Here’s a thought: mariwhootchie should be completely legal,no revenues to biggov. It’s a weed,a naturally growing substance. Bigov loves to get revenues from things like gambling,alchohol and weeds,because it cannot control the spending it does.
Where does the money go or would it go? Would drug cartels gain power? How would they if it was legal and people who want it could easily obtain it or grow it themselves?

mangeek
mangeek
9 years ago

As far as I can see, no state stands to gain more, on a relative-to-size basis, than Rhode Island.
We are the #1 pot-smoking state. We have lots of vacant mill-type space that would be ideal for industrial grow operations. We have an active ‘grow local’ movement. We can replace a significant import with local jobs and an export crop. We can eliminate a ton of urban crime caused by illegal deals gone bad, eliminate a big portion of prison/enforcement/probation/court costs.

Max D
Max D
9 years ago

“We have lots of vacant mill-type space that would be ideal for industrial grow operations. We have an active ‘grow local’ movement. We can replace a significant import with local jobs and an export crop.”
The feds have already warned against this.
“We can eliminate a ton of urban crime caused by illegal deals gone bad, eliminate a big portion of prison/enforcement/probation/court costs.”
This is the biggest fallacy of the argument. There will be no reduction in workloads and prison populations. The ‘War on Drugs’ hasn’t included marijuana since the 70’s when Nixon repealed mandatory sentences for marijuana possession. Yes, it’s still illegal but the priorities have been focused elsewhere. It’s called collateral damage because sale of one goes hand in hand with sales of the other.
I’m pretty much ambivalent to this issue but there are some serious untruths supporting it. It will be harder to detect by LE and you’ll see an emphasis on training more Drug Recognition Experts (DRE) at a significant cost to state and local governments. I just don’t see where this is a benefit to Rhode Island.

mangeek
mangeek
9 years ago

“This is the biggest fallacy of the argument. There will be no reduction in workloads and prison populations.”
Two of my former classmates are in prison for pot-related stuff, and I buried another this time last year (he had been shot over what looks like a pot-related debt).
If you legalize the production, distribution, and sale, you collect taxes to offset the social costs of more people using. You can also eliminate the black market (as long as the taxes are reasonable) and all the associated crime that goes along with it, the most impactful being violence over drug debts.
Very few people realize how much crime revolves around drug money. Virtually every home invasion, half the murders, and half the ‘jumpings’ that I’ve seen in the neighborhood have been over drugs or drug money. I don’t see anyone shooting anyone else over cartons of cigarettes or handles of vodka.

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