Rhode Island Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Legalize Cannabis Industry

Some predict Rhode Island could be the first state in America to legalize recreational marijuana by way of the state legislature. Earlier this week, lawmakers introduced a bill that would repeal prohibition across the state and establish operations for a taxed and regulated marijuana market in a manner similar to the alcohol industry.

State Senator Joshua Miller submitted his proposal entitled “Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act,” which would legalize cannabis for adults 21 and over, allowing for the possession of up to an ounce of weed and the cultivation of a single mature plant. In addition, the measure would create a regulatory framework that would allow for cultivation centers and retail pot shops—a move anticipated to generate upwards of $58 million a year in tax revenue.

“It’s time to regulate and tax marijuana in Rhode Island and treat it similarly to how we treat alcohol,” Miller said in a statement. “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.”

Rhode Island is no stranger to marijuana reform. In 2006, the state legalized medical marijuana and in 2013, Governor Lincoln Chafee signed a law stripping away the criminal penalties associated with the possession of small amounts of marijuana. So, the next obvious progression for the state is to legalize a cannabis industry, which experts say will likely happen.

In a recent article for The Huffington Post, Marijuana Policy Project executive director Rob Kampia predicted that Rhode Island would be the next state to legalize a recreational marijuana market similar to Colorado and Washington. “The state that will most likely be next to legalize is Rhode Island, which would be the first to do so via state legislature,” he said.

Although the average marijuana reformist may not understand the significance Rhode Island could have on the grand scheme of legalization efforts all over the country, the concept of the state eliminating marijuana prohibition through the state legislature is an important move.

Earlier this year, Keith Stroup, founder of NORML, said it was vital for at least one state to legalize marijuana in the legislature in 2015. The idea is that not only are ballot initiatives costly to get passed but only half the states have the ability to amendment their constitution in this fashion. Therefore, if recreational marijuana is ever going to be legalized in the majority of states, it is absolutely imperative to eliminate the taboo associated with state mandated pot reform.

“It is crucial that we continue to get more and more legalization bills introduced in the various state legislatures, and that we continue to build support for these bills among the elected legislators,” said Stroup. “Winning full legalization the old-fashioned way—by getting it approved by a majority of the legislature and signed by the governor—would be an enormous political achievement that would open up the possibility of legalization in the balance of those states that do not offer a voter initiative.”

Although it is difficult to tell whether the bill will be met with any resistance from the opposing forces, it appears to have the support of Governor Gina Raimondo if it makes it out of the legislature alive. A spokesperson for the governor’s office recently told the Associated Press that the primary goal of the governor is to create jobs, and if “there’s a way to legalize marijuana with proper regulations so Rhode Islanders don’t get hurt, then it’s something lawmakers should look at and get right for the state.”

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