Pot in Pottersville for the Profit of Political Insiders


On a Facebook page that he controls, WPRI reporter Dan McGowan has generated a good amount of discussion about Ted Nesi’s article concerning Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s plan to put the legalization of marijuana in the state budget.

We should pause a moment on the propriety of making major social changes as part of the budget process, which inevitably covers a wide range of contentious issues.  This sort of history-changing decision should be considered in its own right, not in a giant omnibus bill that buys votes from legislators for this or that other provision.

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Much of the conversation on McGowan’s page, however, has had to do with concern about the use of drug legalization explicitly to raise money for government in a failing state.  That suggestion brings to mind the rationale that the General Assembly put into law for creating the state sales tax in the middle of the last century:

The recognition of the state of its obligation to grant pay increases for teachers in the manner provided in chapter 7 of title 16, to assure the maintenance of proper educational standards in the public schools, coupled with the compelling necessity for additional state aid to the several cities and towns now confronted with financial crisis, have created an increased burden on the finances of the state. To the end that adequate funds are available to the state government to enable it to meet these newly adopted obligations, without impairing the ability of the state to fulfill its existing obligations, a revision of the tax structure is unavoidable.

The money is always desperately needed, and there’s always an emotional hook, but government insiders never pay for the supposed priorities. Next will be prostitution or harder drugs, even as nanny state progressives create black markets for cigarettes, soft drinks, and firearms.

Clearly we’re in the world in which George Bailey was never born.  Let’s just change the name of the state to Rhode Island and the Pottersville Strip.

  • Phil Hirons Jr

    We’ll be in Walking Tall territory soon after that.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    Why are we kidding ourselves that there is any motivation other than revenue for the legalization of marijuana (it is unclear to me why it ever became illegal) Great American fortunes, the Roosevelts and Browns come to mind, were made in the drug trade selling Indian opium into China. This was euphemized as the “China Trade” and gave us the Opium Wars, which we (Europeans)won and secured Hong Kong, Shanghai and several other ports.
    ” progressives create black markets for cigarettes,” Nothing new there. Right after the Civil War, I worked in Manhattan. People would go through an entire office building with shopping carts full of North Carolina cigarettes, selling them to people right at their desks. At least, at the time, North Carolina did not tax tobacco products. I don’t recall any arrests.

  • Joe Smith

    The fact remains RI is not an island; the availability of pot in MA and what seems increasingly likely CT combined with the fact consumption generally occurs away from point of sale (unlike gambling or prostitution) mean RI is faced with the real problem of purchasing (and the associated business and tax generation) occurring out of state but the consumption (and associated costs) occurring in state. Hence remaining an outlier could easily mean we are incurring costs without any associated ‘benefits” (capturing black market activity) or the loss from the economic diversion (to the extent this is simply displacing from say alcohol or other recreational spending)

    We shouldn’t kid ourselves on the comparability of initial results from CO/WA – or even the first mover results from MA – but whatever the motivation, sometimes it is a case of get on the bus or be left behind.