Sometimes the explanations that politicians give for their support for a particular policy make you go, “Wait… what?” Such was the case with Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s response in a recent Providence Journal interview:
The setting: a roundtable discussion with students in one of Rhode Island’s poorest cities, a week after she had signed an executive order temporarily banning the sale of flavored vaping products.
“And the kids said vaping is expensive. ‘We use that as a treat for party nights …. Marijuana is the day-to-day thing.’”
“Like, wow,” Raimondo remembered thinking and maybe saying. “How do you obtain that? And they’re like, ‘Attleboro is 10 minutes away, if you haven’t noticed.’ So we are kidding ourselves if we think we don’t [already] have recreational marijuana [in Rhode Island]. Talk to the state police. They see it on the roads.” …
Yes, for the second year in a row, she intends to propose legalizing the adult use of marijuana — and not, she said, just because of the millions of dollars in new revenue it could provide the state (at least $9.4 million a year, the state estimates) but because she sees unregulated access to the drug as a “safety issue.”
Umm… if the point of the story is that the kids are buying marijuana in a state where it’s legal, then it isn’t “unregulated access to the drug.” It might be regulated badly, but legalizing the drug in Rhode Island will only mean that the kids have regulated access that is more convenient.
This isn’t an argument against legalization, but since the governor isn’t making a rights-based argument, and since her rationale for regulation is foolish, that leaves us with “thou dost protest too much” and the conclusion that, yes, she’s after the money. (Whether that money is cash for the state government or donations from vested donors I leave for the reader to decide.)
This time of year, my usual analogy is even more apropos. Our culture has repeatedly warned us about people who make fortunes in the private sector and then take over government to make illicit businesses legal and prominent, as with the alternative Pottersville reality in It’s a Wonderful Life. But that can happen in the other direction, too, with government making previously illegal industries for profit, and we should all be wary of it.