A guest column from MPP’s Mason Tvert appeared today in the Providence Journal in Rhode Island. An excerpt is below, and you can click here to read the entire piece.
Few social movements have advanced as far and as fast over the past decade as marriage equality and marijuana policy reform.
An October Gallup poll found a record-high 58 percent of Americans think it is time to make marijuana legal — a far cry from the 25 percent support when the same question was asked in 1995. In July, the pollster found a record-high 54 percent of Americans support recognizing same-sex marriage, up from just 27 percent in early 1996.
For both movements, increased public support has translated into legislative victories. Twenty states and the District of Columbia have legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes since 1996, and two states, Colorado and Washington, adopted laws last November to regulate marijuana like alcohol. Sixteen states and our nation’s capital now recognize same-sex marriage, with Hawaii and Illinois becoming the 15th and 16th this month.
Rhode Island has made significant headway on both issues.
The General Assembly approved a limited form of domestic partnership in 2002. In 2006, it approved a limited form of marijuana legalization, allowing individuals with certain debilitating illnesses to use it for medical purposes if their doctors recommend it. Lawmakers authorized civil unions in 2011, and last year the state decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Despite marijuana policy reform leading in the polls nationwide, marriage equality beat it to the finish line in Rhode Island with this year’s passage of a bill legalizing same-sex marriage. Meanwhile, the legislature punted on a bill to create a regulated and taxed marijuana market for adults. Despite being sponsored by a bi-partisan coalition of 19 House and Senate members, it did not receive a vote and instead was “held for further study.”
Now that legislators are over the rainbow, it’s time to take advantage of the pot of gold.