The 2017 Effort to Legalize Marijuana is Launched in RI
Thursday, January 12, 2017
“We have a responsible, fine-tuned bill, and we should pass it this year,” said Josh Miller, chairman of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services. “This year’s bill addresses the issues that have been raised by the governor and stakeholders, and it is streamlined to work effectively with the regulatory structure in place for medical marijuana.
“Polls of residents in towns across Rhode Island show a majority of voters in our state — from Narragansett to Cumberland — support this proposal. Our constituents think it is time for lawmakers to pass this legislation, and we should listen to them. If we fail to pass the bill this year, we will lose significant ground to Massachusetts, and Rhode Islanders will simply be able to cross the border to purchase marijuana there.”
The bill called the Cannabis Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow one mature marijuana plant in an enclosed, locked space. It would establish the Office of Cannabis Coordination within the executive branch, which would be charged with coordinating among state agencies to establish a tightly regulated system of licensed marijuana retail stores, cultivation facilities, processing facilities, and testing facilities. The legislation would also create a 23% excise tax on retail marijuana sales in addition to the standard 7% sales tax.
“Eight states have passed laws to regulate and tax cannabis for adult use,” Slater said. “We have had several years to see how regulation works in Colorado and Washington, and we have learned important lessons from their experiences. This legislation represents a sensible policy reform that has been shown to work successfully in other states.”
Accroding to the group, the legislation contains strong provisions aimed at protecting public health and safety, including mandatory product testing and labeling, strict restrictions on advertising and marketing to minors, and funding dedicated to the enforcement of impaired driving laws. The proposal also includes tight regulations on edible marijuana products, including a limit of one serving of THC per product, a prohibition on products with designs that may appeal to children, and a mandatory product review process. The measure also provides for local control, allowing towns and cities to “opt out” and ban marijuana establishments within their jurisdictions.
SEE SLIDESHOW OF WHO SUPPORTED AND OPPOSED THE PASSAGE IN 2016
Related Slideshow: Who Supports, Opposes Marijuana Legalization in RI in 2016
Jared Moffat with RegulateRI pointed to Colorado’s regulated marijuana system generating more than $135 million in revenue in 2015 -- as well as potential competition from Massachusetts if they legalize marijuana first -- as reasons for Rhode Island lawmakers to act on the legislation this year.
“Vermont and Massachusetts, we should be well aware of the fact that they're moving seriously towards legalization,” said Moffat. “We've had the debate for five years now -- and it's coming. The question is now do we want to get ahead of the curve. Our hope is that now that tolls vote happened, that this will be the next thing that fills the void."
"Legislatively, we have nine point policy on drugs, and the last one is we don't support legalization. It's not specific to marijuana, but it's the closest the [American Medical Association] comes to policy," said Steve DeToy, RIMS Director of Public Affairs.
"We support medical marijuana. Taxing the patient isn't something we'd support, but if it's for regulating an unregulated supply system, we support that," said DeToy. "Rhode Island has two types of suppliers, one is the compassion centers that have had strict oversight, and the other is the caregivers' side which hasn't had the same level of protections and oversight at this time."
NAACP Providence Branch President Jim Vincent serves on the RegulateRI coalition -- and offered the following:
"The New England Area Conference [of the NAACP] voted in favor of the legislation. It continues to be an issue that tears apart our community, this war on drugs. It's a key factor why our community is suffering, when we can be keeping people out of jail for something that can be regulated," said Vincent.
"Legalization is many issues -- it's social justice. for others its medicinal, they for others its a tax raising issue," said Vincent. "I'm staying on the social justice."
"Marijuana will be the next great debate. With leadership unwilling to address their broken culture of inefficiency and questionable ethics, they will look to any source for future funds that will not impact the current culture," said RI Taxpayers' Larry Girouard. "Tolls, pot, gambling and other initiatives do not require leadership to change anything. They just tap new funding sources."
"When you have the most hostile business climate in the continental US, one would think there would be ample examples of things leadership might initiate to improve our business climate. Of course this would mean that leadership would need to make a few unpopular decisions, something that they seem unwilling to do. Name one thing that leadership has done over the last 5 years that demonstrates that they are really serious about changing Rhode Island’s abysmal anti-business brand. It is easier to create new sources of income, like tolls," said Larry Girouard.
"Our statement is we're not 'pro' or con until we do more research," said Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity CEO Mike Stenhouse. "Our question is, if it's a lot like alcohol, and supporters say why don't we just tax it like that, then do we think more 'alcohol' for young Rhode Islanders is a good or bad thing?"
"When government in its voracious appetite for new revenue considers legislation that could arguably provide great societal or individual harm, you have to consider the pros and cons," said Stenhouse. "We'd have to look at Colorado and other states for the impact there."
"As for [taxing] medical marijuana, if we're taxing it simply as a revenue source, it's government out of control," said Stenhouse. "And if we try and overregulate, we know there's a huge black market for cigarettes already in Rhode Island."
"We support a legalize, tax, and regulate approach," said Sam Bell with the RI Progressive Democrats."
As for the Governor's proposal to tax medical marijuana caregivers and patients?
"We have not taken a formal position, but I would imaging the majority of our group would be opposed," said Bell.
"Continuing to waste resources on enforcing the prohibition on the consumption of marijuana, the moral equivalent of a good bourbon, is like flushing taxpayer dollars down the drain," said Pat Ford, Chairman of the RI Libertarian Party. "If adults want to use marijuana in the privacy of their home, why shouldn't they be allowed to do so without fear of prosecution?"
"The War on Drugs is a consummate failure that has crossed our nation billions of dollars through the combined cost of interdiction and incarceration, exacerbated racial tensions, inspired a narco terrorist fueled refugee crisis and been the root cause underlying several public health crises," said Ford. "Waisted lives and wasted resources will be its sole legacy. The legalization of cannabis can begin to bring this madness to an end."