Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Joshua Miller and Representative Scott A. Slater have introduced companion bills in Rhode Island’s House and Senate to make cannabis legal for adults 21 and older, and to establish a system in which cannabis is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol.
“Marijuana prohibition has been a long-term failure,” Senator Miller said at a press conference held today. “Forcing marijuana into the underground market ensures authorities have no control of the product. Regulating marijuana would allow the product to be sold safely and responsibly by legitimate businesses in appropriate locations.”
“Most Rhode Island voters agree it is time to end marijuana prohibition and start treating the product like alcohol,” said Representative Slater. “Eliminating the criminality of personal use of the substance will allow law enforcement to focus their attention on curtailing the more serious and dangerous drugs on our streets.”
Regulation of the substance, the legislators said in a press release, “will allow the state to create barriers to teen access, such as ID checks and serious penalties for selling to those under 21.” They also note that; “Taxing marijuana sales could generate tens of millions of dollars in much-needed tax revenue for the state, a portion of which will be directed towards programs that treat and prevent alcohol and other substance abuse.”
The measure would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of cannabis and grow up to two cannabis plants in an enclosed, locked space. It would also establish “a tightly regulated system of licensed marijuana retail stores, cultivation facilities, and testing facilities; enact an excise tax of up to $50 per ounce on the wholesale sale of marijuana flowers applied at the point of transfer from the cultivation facility to a retail store (a special 10-percent sales tax will also be applied at the point of retail sale); and require the Department of Business Regulation to establish rules regulating security, labeling, health and safety requirements.”
According to polling released last year, 53% of Rhode Island voters support legalizing cannabis.