Will Rhode Island Legalize if Massachusetts Does?

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Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo says “Little Rhody” may have to get serious about establishing a legal marijuana market of its own if legalization passes as expected in big next-door neighbor Massachusetts next Tuesday.

During a recent discussion with the folks over at the Providence Journal, Governor Raimondo, a Democrat who’s had dicey positions on the plant in the past, said she and her staff would have to look at the marijuana legalization issue “harder and faster” if Massachusetts approves a ballot measure that will allow weed to be sold throughout the state in a manner similar to alcohol.

“We’re looking at it,” she said. “But I do think we have to get it right because we’re not just talking about rolling a joint.… If that was what this was all about, I think that would be pretty easy: Legalize.”

Not unlike other politicians gunning to keep their respective states wallowing in perpetual prohibition, Raimondo said her only reservations about moving forward with legalization is the potential threat certain cannabis products pose to the safety of children and the fact that it is impossible, at this point, to determine whether a motorist is driving high.

“If I could get myself comfortable that we, the state, could legalize in a way that keeps people safe, keeps children safe, folks aren’t getting sick, then I would be in favor,” she said.

It was predicted in 2015 that Rhode Island would become the first state to legalize a recreational marijuana market by way of the state legislature. And while the issue did have bipartisan support, a proposal entitled the “Marijuana, Regulation, Control and Taxation Act” was ultimately left undecided in committee, leaving it to rot out behind the State Capitol.

Earlier this year, Rhode Island was, once again, said to be the Great Green Hope in terms of the state most likely to first legalize the leaf through governmental controls. In March, State Senator Joshua Miller resubmitted the “Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act,” which would have legalizing cannabis for adults 21 and over. The proposal was expected to bring in an estimated $58 million in annual tax revenue—a more common sense money maker than Gov. Raimondo’s ridiculous proposal aimed at taxing cannabis plants grown by the state’s medical marijuana patients.

In the end, the Rhode Island House and Senate seemed more interested in watching what happens with marijuana legalization in Massachusetts than they were with becoming leaders in the movement.

Well, the outcome of this wait-and-see approach will be realized this coming Tuesday.

If Massachusetts voters approve Question 4, it would legalize a retail cannabis market in the image of what is currently underway in Colorado. However, pot shops would not be permitted to open until the beginning of 2018, which could conceivably give Rhode Island lawmakers a chance to get serious about pushing through a piece of marijuana legislation in 2017.

Incidentally, there is still time for Rhode Island to become the first state in the nation to legalize marijuana through the state legislature. That title has yet to be claimed—although Delaware could beat them to it.

In 2015, Gov. Raimondo said her primary mission was to create jobs for the people of Rhode Island, 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.”

Incidentally, a medical-marijuana reform package signed into law by Governor Raimondo earlier this year was designed to establish a regulatory framework to prepare the state for the coming of a recreational cannabis market.




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