Rhode Island Lawmakers To Introduce Legislation To Legalize Marijuana


As the Massachusetts government prepares to implement an initiative to regulate and tax marijuana that was approved by voters in November, lawmakers in Rhode Island are poised to introduce similar legislation.

The bill sponsors, Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Cranston) and State Rep. Scott Slater (D-Providence), discussed the proposal at a news conference Wednesday in the Rhode Island State House. They were joined by members of the Regulate Rhode Island coalition, including co-chairs Andrew Horwitz, a professor and criminal defense attorney, and Dr. James Crowley, past president of the Rhode Island Medical Society.

“We have a responsible, fine-tuned bill, and we should pass it this year,” said Miller, chairman of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services. “This year’s bill addresses the issues that have been raised by the governor and stakeholders, and it is streamlined to work effectively with the regulatory structure in place for medical marijuana.

“Polls of residents in towns across Rhode Island show a majority of voters in our state — from Narragansett to Cumberland — support this proposal. Our constituents think it is time for lawmakers to pass this legislation, and we should listen to them. If we fail to pass the bill this year, we will lose significant ground to Massachusetts and Rhode Islanders will simply be able to cross the border to purchase marijuana there.”

The Cannabis Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow one mature marijuana plant in an enclosed, locked space. It would establish the Office of Cannabis Coordination within the executive branch, which would be charged with coordinating among state agencies to establish a tightly regulated system of licensed marijuana retail stores, cultivation facilities, processing facilities, and testing facilities. The legislation would also create a 23% excise tax on retail marijuana sales in addition to the standard 7% sales tax.

“Eight states have passed laws to regulate and tax cannabis for adult use,” Slater said. “We have had several years to see how regulation works in Colorado and Washington, and we have learned important lessons from their experiences. This legislation represents a sensible policy reform that has been shown to work successfully in other states.”

The legislation contains strong provisions aimed at protecting public health and safety, including mandatory product testing and labeling, strict restrictions on advertising and marketing to minors, and funding dedicated to the enforcement of impaired driving laws.

The proposal also includes tight regulations on edible marijuana products, including a limit of one serving of THC per product, a prohibition on products with designs that may appeal to children, and a mandatory product review process. The measure also provides for local control, allowing towns and cities to “opt out” and ban marijuana establishments within their jurisdictions.

According to multiple state and federal government surveys, rates of teen marijuana use have remained relatively unchanged — and in some cases have decreased — in states that have adopted laws regulating marijuana for adult use. More information is available at http://www.regulateri.com/teen-use.

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Regulate Rhode Island is a coalition of citizens and organizations committed to ending the failed policy of marijuana prohibition and replacing it with a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol. Member organizations include the Rhode Island NAACP, Rhode Island ACLU, Rhode Island Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Rhode Island Sierra Club, Rhode Island Republican Liberty Caucus, Rhode Island Young Democrats, Clergy for a New Drug Policy, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, and the Marijuana Policy Project, among others. For more information, visit http://www.RegulateRI.com.

  1. Fester says

    While this is far from perfect there are a lot of us in non-legal states who would take this and be happy as a pig in shit. My guess is they would find out limiting people to one plant grow is a massive waste of energy and it would eventually be relaxed. It’s a start and you can certainly build on it. Hope they get it through. What’s RI governor like?

    1. Gary Craig says

      As a resident of a “legal cannabis” state, which isn’t even up and running after 3 years, I can’t agree more!

      1. Gary Craig says

        I meant “Medical cannabis” state.

        1. Gary Craig says

          We’re a medical state, that has 0 open dispensaries, and allows NO homegrown. In other words not really legal!

  2. M. Simon says

    I made my comment before reading yours.


  3. M. Simon says

    One plant? It is a start.

  4. saynotohypocrisy says

    Master gardeners will be in high demand (sorry) if people are limited to only 1 mature plant.
    It will of course shove people in the direction of indoor gardening, with its intensive energy requirements. Not the green way to go!

    1. JohnB says

      CFLs give perfectly acceptable results – not award-winning by any means, but acceptable – and use very little energy.
      Indoor growing only has to be energy intensive if one is trying to do something other than keep the stash box full.

      1. saynotohypocrisy says

        Maybe I’m wrong – I’ll be looking for more discussion of this issue.

        1. JohnB says

          You’re certainly not wrong if you are simply comparing indoor growing to outdoor growing.

          Nothing is greener than mother nature’s, sunshine, rain and soil.

          By contrast, two 40w CFLs running 24 hours a day for six months use about $50 worth of electricity and can grow a plant large enough to yield two or three ounces.

  5. JohnB says

    There are a total of six states surrounding Mass that have similar legislation being introduced, including New Jersey!
    legislators in NJ are chomping at the bit for the final day of Christie in office so that they can move forward with legalization.

    Who knows if any of them will actually make it all the way through, but I said last year when Mass passed their ballot initiative that neighboring states would follow suit, so as to not lose out on all that money going to Boston, etc.
    Now here they are, potentially the first state yet to re-legalize via the legislature, rather than by ballot initiative.

    Where’s that Russ Belville to tell us all how Jeff Sessions is taking us back to the Nancy Reagan days?

    I said it before, and I’ll say it again; long before Sessions can spool up any new war on cannabis, the number of legal states may very well double AGAIN.

    Remind me again of the awesome power Sessions would wield against not just eight, but potentially 15 fully legal states?
    Explain to me again the process by which he, as Attorney General, somehow makes duly enacted laws in ANY state, let alone eight or ten or maybe fifteen, including the most populous ones, null and void?

    Could someone point out for me the place in each of those states’ constitutions where it says, “all bets are off if the USAG doesn’t like our state laws?”

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