Rhode Island — A “Laboratory of Democracy?”
“It is one of the happy incidents of the federal system that a single courageous state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.”
- Justice Louis D. Brandeis, 1932
On Thursday, March 3, Rhode Island State Representatives Edith Ajello, Christopher Blazejewski, Peter Martin, Larry Valencia, and Donna Walsh introduced HB 5591, a bill that would tax and regulate the sale and distribution of marijuana within Rhode Island. This marks the second session in a row that Rep. Ajello has championed a sensible approach to marijuana in the Ocean State.
Introduction of this bill also serves to remind us that there are numerous courageous champions of marijuana policy living the eloquent words of Justice Brandeis above. The push to bring to an end to the unjust and destructive marijuana prohibition is, for the most part, coming not from our leadership in Washington, D.C., but from our elected state legislators.
State-level politicians are standing up and making the bold and rational choice to advocate for a “novel social and economic experiment” – ending marijuana prohibition and replacing it with a system of taxed and regulated marijuana distribution similar to the current legal system regulating alcohol, a much more damaging substance than marijuana. Assembly member Tom Ammiano in California, Representative Mary Lou Dickerson in Washington, Representative Ellen Story in Massachusetts, and many of their colleagues have taken on the failed status quo and are leading the charge for sensible change.
Hear this, change will come. It may be via the ballot or by legislative proposal, but it will come. Support for legalizing marijuana is, and continues to be, on the rise. Sometime soon, some state (Colorado? Washington? California? Rhode Island?) will stand up and say enough is enough. How the federal government will respond is anyone’s guess. But one thing is clear: Several states led the way to repealing alcohol prohibition by refusing to participate in it, and states taking a sensible approach to marijuana will also lead the way to ending marijuana prohibition.