The Green Rush domino effect continues to be felt on the East Coast. On the heels of neighbor Connecticut legalizing marijuana, it looks like Rhode Island may be the next state to end prohibition. Yesterday the Rhode Island Senate approved a bill to legalize marijuana for adults in the state and regulate its production and retail sale. As the state’s legislation session approaches its final days, the bill will now advance to the House for consideration and then to Governor Daniel McKee’s office for final approval.
“This is a significant milestone,” said Jared Moffat, state campaigns manager for the Marijuana Policy Project, a cannabis reform-focused nonprofit, in a public statement. “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.”
Carly Wolf, state policies manager at NORML, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit focused on marijuana legalization, echoed his sentiments. If Rhode Island does indeed legalize cannabis, it will be long overdue.
“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,” she said in a public statement. “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.”
The measure, known as Senate Bill 568, would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and to grow up to six marijuana plants for personal use. As noted by the MPP, the legislation would also establish a Cannabis Control Commission, impose an adult-use cannabis tax at 20% and launch a social equity program.
The original bill was introduced in March and amended last week by the Rhode Island Senate Judiciary Committee, according to MPP. Two other legalization proposals were introduced in Rhode Island this year. The first one was removed in the House Finance Committee’s amendments last week after Gov. McKee initially included it in his budget proposal to tax and regulate the adult-use market. Another one, introduced by Rep. Scott Slater at the end of May, has not yet been taken up by the House Judiciary Committee for consideration.
“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,” said Moffat, adding that polls in Rhode Island show a majority of support toward legalization.
Rhode Island decriminalized marijuana in 2012. For the latter, this means there is no prison time or criminal record for first-time possession of a small amount “for personal use.” Medical marijuana has been legal in Rhode Island since 2006.