Rhode Island marijuana advocates in government have been working towards legalizing the plant for recreational use for some time now. This will be the 7th year in a row that legislators have tried to pass a bill that would legalize the adult use of marijuana but this time they are hopeful. Neighboring states, Massachusetts and Maine, legalized recreational marijuana in November of 2016, becoming 1 of 8 states that have taken this step. Now Rhode Island is looking to become the 9th state to have a legal marijuana market. If all goes according to plan, they would become the 1st state to legalize the plant through legislature, as opposed to a ballot vote.
A Potential Loss Of State Revenue
State Sen. Joshua Miller and state Rep. Scott Slater are the 2 Democrats behind the bill. They are proposing that Rhode Island residents will just go over the border to buy marijuana in Massachusetts which could represent a financial loss to the state. Colorado made $150 million in tax revenue last year and was able to put much needed funding into schools, into anti-bullying programs and other government funded departments that ultimately serve the people. Miller and Slater are urging legislators to ensure that Rhode Island is also able to benefit from the legalization of marijuana.
“We have had several years to see how regulation works in Colorado and Washington and we have learned important lessons from their experiences,” noted Slater. “This legislation represents a sensible policy reform that has been shown to work successfully in other states.”
Getting Rhode Island Marijuana Right
Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo has been sympathetic to the idea of legalizing recreational marijuana, openly sharing her thoughts on the subject last year. She has said that it is something that she is open to and has already contemplated. Her main issues are making sure children cannot access edibles and that regulations in general have been put in place beforehand. She’s more interested in getting it right, than rushing to get ahead of Massachusetts.
Redrafting the Bill
Jared Moffat, director of legalization advocacy group Regulate Rhode Island, said they received a lot of feedback from the Governor and other legislators regarding the Rhode Island marijuana bill in the past. They have taken the suggestions into consideration when redrafting the bill this year and he believes it will be received well. The revised bill varies from the Massachusetts bill in that it contains stricter laws on edibles and how much a person can grow from home. The bill also contains a high tax that is more in line with the Western states who have legalized. They propose a 23 percent tax excise on top of the state’s 7 percent. Massachusetts have a 3.75 tax excise on the 6.25 regular sales tax with the option of allowing local territories to add an extra 2 percent.
All the changes to the bill address concerns previously communicated by legislators so advocates are hopeful that the bill will pass. Massachusetts marijuana has been delayed until mid-2018, which means that if the bill passes, residents may have access to Rhode Island marijuana sooner than their neighbors.