There's no secret that Rhode Island is having a bit of a problem finding enough money to invest in critical infrastructure, such as roads and bridges; the costs associated with providing even the basic state services continues to climb. On the other side, taxpayers have made it perfectly clear that they are less than enthusiastic about handing-over more of their hard-earned cash into the state's general fund and the small but hardy Rhode Island business community simply can not tolerate more taxes, tolls, fees, and the like.
What we need is a consistent and fair revenue source that will not raise taxes on working families and that won't put undue burden on local businesses.
Much needed cannabis reform can take the plant off of the black market and generate needed revenue for Rhode Island.
So far, evidence suggests cannabis reform has brought positive effects to states that have moved to tax and regulate. Colorado levies a 15% wholesale tax and a 10% sales tax on the retail sale of cannabis. This means cannabis users have added $76 million to the state war chest. Other states are still experimenting and figuring out the tax structures related to cannabis, but all are anticipating higher than expected revenues, revenues that can be spent on roads, education and other top priorities.
Cannabis reform could also reduce the cost related to the corrections system. Nationwide, about 1 in 8 people that are currently incarcerated are so regarding offenses related to cannabis possession. Ending the prosecution of these non-violent cases would mean fewer people in our already overburden corrections system and a savings of the taxpayer dollars we spend to keep them imprisoned. Also, taking cannabis off of street and regulating the sale of it would make it less available to minors, much like alcohol and tobacco is.
Some are concerned that cannabis reform would lead to an increase in crime, yet that is not the case in Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Alaska, the states where cannabis is currently regulated. In the year after regulated cannabis hit the market in Colorado, violent crimes fell by 6.9 % and cannabis reform hasn't created any sort of a public safety issues in these states.
I'm not saying that cannabis reform will be an end-all for the complex financial challenges that are currently facing our state. However, some well written cannabis reform will generate substantial revenue, and ease the burden on taxpayers and local businesses.
Our current cannabis laws are broken. Let's fix them.
Tony Jones a lifelong Rhode Islander, is a local musician, radio host and blogger. He was a 2014 candidate for Lieutenant Governor, running on a platform that advocated for the elimination of the office.