RI lawmakers back legalizing marijuana

Some Rhode Island lawmakers said Tuesday they want to legalize and tax marijuana.

NBC News reported that marijuana brought in more than $1 million in tax revenue for Colorado in the first 27 days it was legal.

"Rhode Island faces a pretty serious deficit. The sooner we pass this legislation, the sooner we can start to realize the necessary tax revenue off these sales," state Rep. Edith Ajello, D-Providence, said.

Supporters of the bill said they believe legalizing marijuana could bring $26 million in tax revenue to Rhode Island annually.

Ajello and state Sen. Josh Miller, D-Cranston, have submitted similar bills in the past.

"I do not encourage or promote marijuana use, however I do believe that responsible adults should not be punished because they prefer marijuana to martinis," Ajello said.

The bill would allow adults 21 years or older to buy up to one ounce of the drug from a maximum of 10 distributors in the Rhode Island.

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin strongly opposes legalization.

In a letter he sent last year opposing a similar bill, Kilmartin wrote, "With juveniles' perception of the risk of marijuana already diminishing due to decriminalization in our state ... this act would only further blur the risk perception of teen marijuana use."

Kilmartin said he's supports medical marijuana. Compassion centers in Rhode Island provide different types of pot and marijuana-laced products for medical patients.

"I don't believe marijuana is harmless," said Dr. David Lewis of Brown University's Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies. "The current policy of marijuana prohibition is even more harmful to individuals, families and for communities."

Supporters say legalizing pot would cripple black market sales, thus making it harder for minors to get their hands on the drug.

This bill would also require 40 percent of marijuana tax revenue to go toward the treatment of drug addiction.

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