Rhode Island Senate Approves Bill to Legalize Marijuana

Rhode Island Senate Approves Bill to Legalize Marijuana

Members of the Rhode Island state Senate approved legislation to legalize marijuana for adults in the state and regulate its production and retail sale.

“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.”

Senate Bill 568, which is sponsored by the Senate Majority Leader, 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. The measure would also facilitate the expungement of past convictions involving up to two ounces of marijuana possession.

In addition to legalizing cannabis for adults, the amended version of S 568 would establish 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.

“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.”

Two other legalization proposals have been introduced in Rhode Island this year. Gov. McKee included an article in his budget proposal to tax and regulate cannabis for adults, but it was removed in the House Finance Committee’s amendments last week. Rep. Scott Slater introduced a legalization bill at the end of May. That bill has not yet been taken up by the House Judiciary Committee.

After spearheading a successful campaign to decriminalize marijuana possession in Rhode Island in 2012, the Marijuana Policy Project has played a leading role in efforts to legalize and regulate cannabis for adults’ use in the state.

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