The smallest state in the country took a big step toward marijuana legalization this week when Rhode Island lawmakers introduced legislation that would end marijuana prohibition and establish a system to regulate and tax the plant.
According to an article in The Huffington Post, Democratic state Senator Joshua Miller said, “Marijuana prohibition is an ineffective and wasteful policy, and we cannot afford to ignore it any longer. The legislature is perfectly capable of creating a system that will work for Rhode Island.” The Marijuana Policy Project has already predicted that legalized marijuana in Rhode Island would “boost the state treasury by $58 million a year in taxes.”
The Marijuana Regulation, Control and Taxation Act would legalize the possession, use and sale of recreational marijuana for those age 21 and older. Adult residents could possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow one marijuana plant for personal use. Cultivation would be limited to secure, indoor facilities.
Democratic State Representative Scott Slater is a sponsor of the bill. He said, “Regulating marijuana will take sales out of the underground market and allow authorities to keep tabs on the product. In a legal market, products are tested, labeled, and packaged appropriately, and consumers will not be exposed to other more harmful substances. Taxing marijuana will generate tens of millions of dollars in new revenue that can be invested in our communities.”
Under the legislation, the state Department of Business Regulation would be put in charge of retail stores and facilities to grow and test marijuana. 40 percent of the taxes generated from marijuana sales would be set aside for substance abuse treatment, anti-drug public education and law enforcement training.
In terms of economics, the measure would enforce an excise tax of $50 per ounce of marijuana flower, $10 per plant and $15 per ounce of any other marijuana product sold wholesale from cultivators to retailers. A 10 percent sales tax would be applied to all retail sales.
Smoking marijuana in public would remain banned.
Rhode Island legalized medical marijuana in 2006 and a majority of the state’s voters are in favor of recreational legalization. According to the Huffington Post, this is the fourth year that legislation to regulate and tax recreational marijuana has been introduced. There’s no word on whether state lawmakers will support the new measure.
Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo said she’s taking a “wait and see approach” on marijuana legalization, but said, “If we think it is inevitable and if there is a way to do it that is properly regulated so people don’t get hurt, we should take a look at it.”