Miller, Slater bill would legalize recreational marijuana

Posted 3/3/22

Should cannabis be legalized in Rhode Island?

Lawmakers will soon be making that decision.

A bill that would legalize, regulate and tax recreational cannabis sales in Rhode Island was …

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Miller, Slater bill would legalize recreational marijuana


Should cannabis be legalized in Rhode Island?

Lawmakers will soon be making that decision.

A bill that would legalize, regulate and tax recreational cannabis sales in Rhode Island was introduced Wednesday by Sen. Joshua Miller and Rep. Scott A. Slater.

If approved, the legislation would legalize the sale and possession of up to one ounce of cannabis for those 21 or older, with no more than 10 ounces for personal use kept in a primary residence, effective Oct. 1. It would also allow Rhode Islanders to grow a small amount of their own cannabis at home, according to a press release.

“The time for Rhode Island to move forward with cannabis legalization is now. This historic shift in public policy will create a vibrant new marketplace in our state and end the failed practice of prohibition, which has caused such harm to so many in our communities,” said Miller. “To help address those past wrongs, and to ensure all Rhode Islanders have the opportunity to share the economic benefits associated with legalization, equity is a central focus of this legislation.”

The legislation would establish a 10 percent state cannabis excise tax in addition to the 7 percent sales tax, plus a 3 percent local tax for the municipality where the sale takes place. It would also create an independent three member cannabis control commission, which would eventually also assume oversight of medical marijuana, which is currently under the purview of the Department of

Business Regulation (DBR). It also establishes a cannabis advisory board and a cannabis office within DBR.

Like legalized medicinal marijuana, the legislation would limit the number of dispensaries. It would allow up to 33 retail licenses distributed in six zones statewide, including nine compassion centers “that could potentially be hybrid recreational and medical retailers.”

The legislation also includes “measures to address social equity to reduce barriers to participation for those communities that have long been disproportionately affected by cannabis prohibition,” a press release read. “ It uses licensing fees and penalties to fund technical assistance and grants to applicants and communities that have been impacted, and reserves one license in each of the six districts for a social equity licensee and another in each district for a co-op.”

The legislation also creates a process for individuals to request expungement of prior convictions for misdemeanor and felony cannabis possession for amounts that have been decriminalized.

Documents provided on Tuesday, lay out the penalties for different marijuana offenses under the legislation.

The possession of more than two ounces of marijuana would be a misdemeanor. For possession of more than an ounce but less than two ounces a civil penalty would be imposed.

If someone were caught with more than 10 ounces within their personal residence it would be a misdemeanor. Having more than the allowable home growing amount of three mature and three immature plants would also result in a misdemeanor.

If the legislation is enacted city and town councils would also have a decision to make. City and town legislators would have the option of approving a resolution to put the question of whether voters want to have dispensaries in their municipality.

If a city or town opts out by referendum, it would be ineligible for cannabis revenue. To be eligible for revenue, municipalities cannot allow selective uses such as permitting retail but not cultivation.

It was noted by the House and Senate leadership that the proposed bill “is only the starting point for the legislative process, during which the bill will doubtlessly undergo changes.”

“I would like to thank Representative Scott Slater, who has worked tirelessly on this legislation,” said House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi. “I want to emphasize that the bill introduced today is not the final product – rather, it is the beginning of the public process of legalizing cannabis for recreational use in Rhode Island. We welcome input from the public as to whether or how we should implement recreational usage, and I expect robust discussions with House membership as well.”

On Tuesday it was explained that the proposed legislation was developed over months of discussions, which included input from legislative leaders, the sponsors and stakeholders including health and community leaders, law enforcement, cultivators and more.

“We’ve been working hard since the end of last session to establish consensus on the details, but our efforts to address the issue have been going on for many years, during which time our neighboring states have already made this move ahead of us. Rhode Island is now behind them from a competitive standpoint, since it’s fairly easy for most Rhode Islanders to cross the state line to make a legal purchase,” said Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey. “The truth is, legal cannabis is already widely available to Rhode Islanders, but the resulting revenue is not. With this bill, we will create jobs, revenue and control in our own state, and help address some of the inequities that have resulted from prohibition. I look forward to working with my colleagues, stakeholders and the public to ensure that we take the careful, nuanced and equitable approach we need to transform this economic sector.”


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