On Wednesday, members of the Rhode Island General Assembly introduced The Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act, which would legalize marijuana for individuals age 21 and older.
The legislation was introduced by Representative Ajello, who is chairwoman of the House Judiciary Committee. Her cosponsors include House Minority Leader Brian Newberry, Rep. David Bennett, Rep. Peter Martin, and Rep. Larry Valencia. Senator Nesselbush plans to introduce the legislation in Senate soon.
“It is time for Rhode Island to put the failed policy of marijuana prohibition behind us and adopt a more sensible approach just as our nation did with alcohol 80 years ago,” said Representative Ajello . “By keeping marijuana sales in the underground market, we are ensuring they will be uncontrolled and that those selling it are not asking for proof of age. Regulating marijuana like alcohol will take marijuana sales off the street and put them in the hands of legitimate businesses that would face real disincentives for selling to minors. These new businesses will also create jobs and generate much-needed new tax revenue.”
The Act would allow adults to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and to grow up to three mature marijuana plants at home. Similar to the programs that are being planned in Washington and Colorado, Rhode Island would create a system of highly regulated marijuana retail stores, growing facilities, and testing facilities to ensure quality control.
The Department of Business Regulation would be responsible for establishing the system’s rules regulating security, health and safety requirements, advertising rules, and drug labeling.
From a financial standpoint, the legislation imposes a tax of up to $50 per ounce on the wholesale sale of marijuana at the time when the marijuana is sold from the grower to the retail store. Additionally, a 7% sales tax would be collected on all marijuana sales to consumers.
The Act’s sponsors believe that marijuana prohibition has done little to stop drug use, and instead has created a black market that makes it more dangerous for people who are going to possess the drug regardless of legality.
Senator Nesselbush stated, “Taxing and regulating the sale of marijuana will rob drug dealers of one of their reasons for being. It will likely reduce crime, weaken gangs and cartels and allow our hard-working law enforcement officials to focus on serious and/or violent crime. Taxing and regulating would also create the potential for much-needed state revenue that could be used for treatment and education about the consequences of drug use and the promise of healthful living.”
The Coalition for Marijuana Regulation, a marijuana advocacy group based in Rhode Island, is working with the lawmakers during this process.