The New England Area Conference of the NAACP, comprising chapters in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, is supporting legislation to legalize marijuana here and regulate it like alcohol.
In explaining its stance, the groups cites a half-dozen reasons, including "an alarming racial disparity" in marijuana arrests in RI and across the US. It says marijuana arrests have failed to discourage use while having adverse long-term consequences for low-level, non-violent offenders. The NAACP also says it believes the war on drugs has failed and should be replaced with a public health-oriented approach that emphasizes reducing drug use.
Lawmakers like House Judiciary Chair Edith Ajello (D-Providence) and Senator Josh Miller (D-Cranston) argue that legalizing pot and taxing it would allow police to focus on more serious crimes while generating state revenue. Critics say legalization would send the wrong message and could set off unintended consequences.
It remains subject to debate whether the General Assembly will move ahead with a controversial topic like marijuana legalization in an election year.