Cannabis legalization is spreading across North America, but not everyone's happy about it. While it's not surprising that there's strong opposition from people who still believe cannabis leads to abusing hard drugs (it doesn't), some people leading reform efforts are also unhappy about repealing prohibition. That's the case in Rhode Island, where Governor Gina Raimondo (D) is expected to begrudgingly introduce cannabis legalization to the state legislature later this week due to peer pressure.
“I will say, I do this with reluctance,” she told The Providence Journal last week, adding that she has "resisted this for the four years I’ve been governor" but now "things have changed, mainly because all of our neighbors are moving forward” with cannabis legalization.
In other words, Rhode Island is changing its laws because of peer pressure. But it's not about fitting in and looking cool so much as facing the reality that prohibition will be increasingly difficult to enforce when you're surrounded by jurisdictions that allow recreational cannabis.
To the North and East of Rhode Island lies Massachusetts, where recreational cannabis dispensaries are already operating. To the West is Connecticut, where newly elected Governor Ned Lamont (D) has pledged to legalize cannabis. And so has Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) of New York - Raimondo's Southwest neighbor.
That means Rhode Islanders will soon have plenty of options to take a short trip outside the state to enjoy a puff of legal weed. And that will create a huge burden on local law enforcement if residents try to bring their illicit purchases back over state lines. On top of that, cannabis grown in those legal markets could be diverted to Rhode Island. We've already seen happen Nebraska and Oklahoma, which say they've been inundated by cannabis coming from Colorado's legal market.
So the best way to maintain control over cannabis in Rhode Island is to legalize and regulate it in the state.
Rhode Island's cannabis plan
Governor Raimondo's reluctance to legalize cannabis is evident in her administration's proposed regulations, which are some of the strictest that we've seen in America thus far. Her plan would ban growing cannabis at home, which is allowed in every legal state except Washington. On top of that, concentrates like shatter and other forms of cannabis products with high levels of THC would be banned.
Edibles would be legal, but each brownie or cookie cannot contain more than 5 milligrams of THC. That's half the amount that Canada will allow next fall when licensed stores begin selling cannabis-infused food.
Of course, those regulations aren't set in stone. They can be adjusted in response to market demands and consumer feedback after the legal market opens, which could be as early as next January. And while cannabis connoisseurs certainly won't like Governor Raimondo's strict plan, it's still better than wasting money and ruining lives over a plant.