Rhode Island-Legal-Marijuana

The Rhode Island Senate is proposing to legalize the production and distribution of cannabis statewide, allow Rhode Islanders to possess up to an ounce of cannabis and impose a 20 percent tax on the industry, WPRI News 12 reports. The proposal is supported by Joshua Miller (D), chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, and Michael McCaffrey (D), Senate Majority Leader.

The legalization of cannabis is a monumental change in public policy that effectively creates a new economy. We want as many Rhode Islanders as possible to have the opportunity to participate in this new economy. – Senator Miller, in a statement.

According to the report, Senate President Dominic Ruggerio has charged two lawmakers with drafting a bill that represents a shift from Ruggerio, who previously supported only medical cannabis.

The Senate bill establishes a five-member Cannabis Control Commission to issue licenses and set rules to regulate the market. Cities automatically receive three licenses, and additional licenses are available for larger cities. Municipalities can only prevent the sale of cannabis by referendum. Under the plan, a 20 percent tax would be levied on adult-use cannabis, with 3 percent going to local governments and 7 percent to the sales fund, and a new 10 percent tax would be levied only on hemp. The retail rate is $20,000 and the cost of licensed cultivation ranges from $20,000 to $100,000. The bill also provides mechanisms to eliminate cannabis-related arrests.

The house seems ambiguous on this issue. House Speaker Joe Shekarchi has not yet taken a position, but is prepared to hear from all interested parties and the public during the House Committee hearing, a spokesman said.

Gov. Dan McKee, an advocate for legalization, will also unveil his own framework for adult use of cannabis on Thursday in the form of a budget proposal, which could lead to negotiations that could soon see Rhode Island join the list of states where cannabis is legal.

Rhode Island is expanding its medical cannabis system from three to nine stores. It is possible that these stores will be the first to be licensed for adult use.

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