Weed News reported on the Rhode Island legislature’s consideration of a bill to legalize marijuana. Now, a new poll from from the Public Policy Polling organization shows that 59 percent of voters in the Ocean State support marijuana legalization, with only 36 percent opposed.
“Rhode Island has the opportunity to become the third New England state to regulate marijuana for adult use,” said Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Cranston), chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. “The results of this poll confirm that our constituents want us to follow the same path as Massachusetts and Maine.”
Sen. Miller and Rep. Scott Slater (D-Providence) introduced the Cannabis Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act. ”A strong and growing majority of voters support our proposal to regulate marijuana,” Rep. Slater said. “Our job is to represent the people of this state, and their position on this issue is pretty clear. It’s time to replace the senseless policy of marijuana prohibition with a sensible policy of regulation.”
The support of 59 percent of voters is up two points from a previous poll done by PPP in 2015. Support for legalization is above majority level everywhere within the 1,212 square miles of Rhode Island, from a low of 53 percent in North Kingstown to a high of 70 percent in Burrillville/Glocester.
Jared Moffat, the director of Regulate Rhode Island, the group advocating for marijuana legalization, joined Sen. Miller and Rep. Slater at the statehouse in Providence to announce the polling results. “Most Rhode Islanders recognize prohibition has failed and seem to view regulating marijuana is a no-brainer,” Moffat said. “Regulation better protects young people, improves public health and safety, and creates more economic opportunities for workers and entrepreneurs in our state. No matter how you look at it, this is clearly a smart path for us to take. Lawmakers would be wise to follow the will of their constituents.”
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.
While taxing marijuana at a total of 30 percent seems excessive and limiting cultivation to just one marijuana plant is unworkable and absurd, Rhode Island is one of the majority of states without the power of citizen initiatives. Thus, advocates are stuck with promoting legislation that can garner the support of a majority of state legislators, most of whom have little understanding of how cannabis cultivation and the underground marijuana economy work.