RI Lawmakers Introduce Marijuana Legalization Legislation

Friday, March 06, 2015

 

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Rep. Scott Slater, Sen. Josh Miller, and Regulate RI's Jared Moffat at Thursday's press conference.

Rhode Island legislators introduced legislation to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol in the state on Thursday afternoon at the State House, citing potential competition from Massachusetts -- and Colorado's $50 million in tax revenue in 2014 from legalization -- as some of the reasons for legalization.  

"Part of it's a fiscal argument...it's about regulating and taxing it, bringing in more money.  Especially when we see the drastic cuts we'll have coming, this will be a good way to bringing in tax revenue," State Representative and bill sponsor Scott Slater told GoLocal prior to the press conference. "A lot of people say, 'Wait and see,' but in Colorado, in fourteen months, they've had something like $700 million in sales, and that's taking it out of the black market."  

On Thursday, Slater along with State Senator Josh Miller introduced S 510/H 5777, the Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act, to allow adults 21 and older to posses up to one ounce of marijuana and grow one mature marijuana plan in enclosed space.

The legislation would create a regulated system of licensed marijuana retail stores, cultivation facilities, and testing facilities, and establish excise taxes at the point of transfer from the cultivation facility to a retail store, and special sales tax on retail sales to consumers. 

Currently, Rhode Island has legalized medical marijuana.  Four states have adopted laws that regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol -- Colorado and Washington have established regulated systems; Alaska and Oregon are in the process of establishing ones. 

Coalition of Support

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Dr. James Crowley speaks in support of the legislation.

"I think there's probably a majority of Senators and potentially a majority of Reps and a majority of citizens in Rhode Island that support the legislation," said Miller on Thursday. "For some, it's a justice issue, for some it's a revenue issue, and I think one of those debates will win the day, and this might be the year for that."

Regulate Rhode Island, which is the coalition of community leaders and citizens working to "end the failed policy of marijuana prohibition," cited the support of a number of Rhode Islanders. 

"Marijuana prohibition is taking a toll on our entire state, and our communities of color are paying the biggest prices. It's time for a more fair and rational policy," said Jim Vincent, President of the NAACP Providence Branch.  

Elizabeth Comery, J.D. a former Providence Officer, offered her support and perspective. 

"Regulating marijuana would make our communities safer by replacing a dangerous underground market with a tightly controlled system of legitimate businesses," said Comery.  

 

Related Slideshow: Marijuana Use in the New England States

According to data collected by the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, New Englanders are among the nation's top marijuana users in the country.  See how the indivdual states compare in the slides below:

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6. Maine

Percent of respondents who used marijuana in the past year: 12.45%

National Rank: 13th most

Possession Laws: Decriminalized (2.5 ounces or less)

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5. Connecticut

Percent of respondents who used marijuana in the past year: 12.50%

National Rank: 12th most

Possession Laws: Decriminalized (less than 0.5 ounce)

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4. Massachusetts

Percent of respondents who used marijuana in the past year: 14.19%

National Rank: 5th most

Possession Laws: Decriminalized (1.0 ounce or less)

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3. New Hampshire

Percent of respondents who used marijuana in the past year: 14.60%

National Rank: 4th most

Possession Laws: Medical Use Only

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2. Rhode Island

Percent of respondents who used marijuana in the past year: 14.85%

National Rank: 3rd most

Possession Laws: Decriminalized (1.0 ounce or less)

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1. Vermont

Percent of respondents who used marijuana in the past year: 14.90%

National Rank: 2nd most

Possession Laws: Decriminalized (1.0 ounce or less)

 
 

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