It’s been a busy week for cannabis activists in the northeast. Connecticut’s Governor signed legislation legalizing adult-use cannabis and now Rhode Island seems to be falling in line as well. With time running out on the state’s regular legislative session, the Senate has approved a bill to legalize the possession, purchase, and cultivation of cannabis for personal use for adults 21 and older. The law was originally introduced in March and amended last week by the Rhode Island Senate Judiciary Committee.
“This is a significant milestone. After roughly a decade of public discussion and debate in Rhode Island, this is the first time a legislative chamber in the General Assembly has voted on a bill to legalize cannabis for adults,” said Jared Moffat, state campaigns manager for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Polls have long shown that a majority of Rhode Islanders support ending marijuana prohibition, and now we’re closer than ever to getting the job done. Senate leaders deserve tremendous credit for their work on this important issue. Now it is time for the House to act and ensure that a cannabis legalization bill is sent to Gov. McKee’s desk before the clock runs out in the regular legislative session.”
Similar to surrounding states, the amended version of S 568 will allow adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and to grow up to six marijuana plants for personal use. The measure would also facilitate the expungement of past convictions involving up to two ounces of marijuana possession. In addition to that, the law will create a Cannabis Control Commission to regulate the legal cannabis market, tax adult-use cannabis sales at 20%, and establish a social equity program to support communities disproportionately impacted by cannabis criminalization.
“Rhode Island is an island of prohibition in a sea of legalization,” said NORML State Policies Manager Carly Wolf. “As one of the two remaining New England states that have yet to pass legalization, the time is now to stop ceding the control and revenue of the marijuana market to surrounding states and unregulated enterprises. Passage of this legislation is also essential in beginning to repair the decades of damage disproportionately done to communities of color as a result of the war on drugs.”
NORML noted that S568 was approved by the Senate with a 29 to 9 vote, and that it will now head to the House for further consideration. House leadership has previously indicated that the issue could be considered in the lower chamber later this year.
“The momentum behind the nationwide movement to end our failed prohibition continues to grow at an accelerated pace,” commented NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri, “Just this year five states have already approved legislation to legalize marijuana for adults, including Rhode Island’s neighbor Connecticut. The American people are sick and tired of our failed prohibitionist policies and finally their elected officials are enacting the will of their constituents. We call upon the Rhode Island General Assembly to follow the Senate’s lead and quickly approve this bill.”
The potential tax revenue for Rhode Island cannabis sales is $35 million.