PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Josh Miller and House Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Edith Ajello announced Wednesday that they will introduce a bill to make marijuana legal for adults 21 and older and establish a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol.
“Marijuana prohibition has been a long-term failure,” Sen. Miller said. “Forcing marijuana into the underground market ensures authorities have no control of the product. Regulating marijuana would allow the product to be sold safely and responsibly by legitimate businesses in appropriate locations.”
In summary, the measure would: allow adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow up to two marijuana plants (only one may be mature) in an enclosed, locked space; establish a tightly regulated system of licensed marijuana retail stores, cultivation facilities, and testing facilities; enact an excise tax of up to $50 per ounce on the wholesale sale of marijuana flowers applied at the point of transfer from the cultivation facility to a retail store (a special 10% sales tax would also be applied at the point of retail sales); and require the Department of Business Regulation to establish rules regulating security, labeling, health, and safety requirements.
“Most Rhode Island voters agree it is time to end marijuana prohibition and start treating the product like alcohol,” Rep. Ajello said. “Regulation allows us to create barriers to teen access, such as ID checks and serious penalties for selling to those under 21. Taxing marijuana sales will generate tens of millions of dollars in much needed revenue for the state, a portion of which will be directed towards programs that treat and prevent alcohol and other substance abuse.”
A majority of Rhode Island voters (53%) support changing state law to regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol, according to a survey conducted by Public Policy Polling on January 14 and 15. Only 41% were opposed. The full survey results are available at mpp.org/RIpoll.
Sen. Miller and Rep. Ajello discussed the bill at a news conference hosted by Regulate Rhode Island and the Marijuana Policy Project. They were joined by Dr. David Lewis, founder of the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies at Brown University; Michelle McKenzie, board member of Protect Families First and director of Preventing Overdose and Naloxone Intervention; former Providence police officer Beth Comery; and former Warren High School and Mt. Hope High School teacher Pat Smith.