The bill was introduced by the state Senate, who proposed a legal cannabis bill that would tax cannabis at 20 percent in order to generate revenue.
The bill is being backed by Josh Miller, chairman of the Senate Health & Human Services Committee, and Michael McCaffrey, the majority leader. If the bill gets signed into law, it will make it legal for those 21 and older to possess at least an ounce of cannabis in the state. Some home growing would also be made legal.
“Cannabis legalization is a monumental shift in public policy that effectively creates a new economy,” Miller said in a statement. “We want to ensure as many Rhode Islanders as possible have the opportunity to participate in this new economy.”
Miller claimed that the goal of this proposed law is to make legal cannabis “as entrepreneurial as possible” in order to bring money into Rhode Island.
This is a big step forward for the Senate, as previously, Senate President Dominick Ruggerio was not open to recreational legalization. Now, he is supporting the bill. And there’s also a good chance it could move forward. Governor Dan McKee is rumored to be working on his own cannabis bill to present to the General Assembly.
It remains to be seen if Speaker Joe Shekarchi will support the bill, as he “has not taken a position, pro or con” regarding marijuana legalization.
“He is open to listening to all stakeholders and the public at House committee hearings,” said Spokesperson Larry Berman about the staance Shekarchi will take, which would have a major bearing on the bill. “He will wait to formulate his opinion based on the public testimony and the viewpoint of his members. The potential marijuana legalization will go through the same process as any other bill and he will not take a position out of respect to his members.”
Regulation and Restorative Justice
The Senate’s proposed cannabis bill would contain plans for a Cannabis Control Commission to regulate the new industry, somewhat modeled off of the Massachusetts regulatory system. It would also establish a process through which people with past cannabis convictions could try and get their charges expunged, in order to help sooth the past impacts of the war on drugs.
“Prohibition clearly didn’t work, and is next to impossible with the availability of legal cannabis just over the state border,” Miller said regarding the bill.
There would still be structures in place to make sure that legal cannabis is compliant and legal. There would be no public cannabis consumption, as in most legal states, and it would not be legal to have unsealed cannabis containers in the car or in public places.
So far, it still remains to be seen whether this will progress, as the Senate Judiciary Committee has not yet scheduled a hearing. However, with the support it has so far, and the fact that the governor is also in favor of legal cannabis, a recreational market in Rhode Island could be a thing of the near future.