As the Massachusetts government prepares to implement an initiative to regulate and tax marijuana that was approved by voters in November, lawmakers in Rhode Island are poised to introduce similar legislation.
State Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Cranston) and State Rep. Scott Slater (D-Providence) on Wednesday held a press conference to discuss the bill. “We have a responsible, fine-tuned bill, and we should pass it this year,” said 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,” Sen. Miller said.
“Polls of residents in towns across Rhode Island show a majority of voters in our state — from Narragansett to Cumberland — support this proposal,” Sen. Miller said. “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 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. The OCC 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 hefty 23 percent excise tax on retail marijuana sales in addition to the standard 7 percent sales tax. In other news, at those tax rates, don’t expect the black market to go away anytime soon.
“Eight states have passed laws to regulate and tax cannabis for adult use,” Rep. 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.”
The legislation contains strong provisions “aimed at protecting public health and safety” (and let’s be real, those are often designed to assuage Reefer Madness fears, not do anything particularly useful). Regulations 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 (of course, they get to decided whatever the hell “one serving” means), 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. That, unfortunately, means that those living in backwards-ass podunks will have to drive farther to buy their legal weed.
According to multiple state and federal government surveys, rates of teen marijuana use have remained relatively unchanged — and in some cases have even decreased — in states that have adopted laws regulating marijuana for adult use. More information is available at http://www.regulateri.com/
The bill sponsors were joined by members of the Regulate Rhode Island coalition, including co-chairs Andrew Horwitz, a professor and criminal defense attorney, and Dr. James Crowley, past president of the Rhode Island Medical Society.