Since the beginning of the year there has been a lot of hope that we might finally have a state ready to legalize marijuana on the east coast – and better yet we’ve been hoping the one to do so, would manage to do it through legislature. If any one state is able to do so, it will be proof for other states that it can be done, it can be done safely and without citizens having to force it on the government.
Vermont was our hopeful for being the first to get this done, what with the speedy passage their legalization bill had in the Senate. Unfortunately, the House got ahold of the bill and ripped it to pieces, leaving it not even close to resembling the original bill. While they are not giving up hope, the chances that a bill like it will pass soon are looking slimmer without support from the House.
However, there is still good news as Rhode Island is finally preparing to make decisions on a number of marijuana related bills, including one called the Marijuana Regulation, Control and Taxation Act, which was being prepared for introduction back in February of this year. The proposed bill would legalize possession of limited amounts of marijuana, allow the non-commercial cultivation of two plants (with only one flowering at a time), as well as outline regulations for commercial cultivation sites, testing facilities and retail dispensaries.
“Colorado’s legal marijuana market currently employs more than 20,000 people,” said Eric Casey, a regulatory analyst for 4Front Ventures, which researches the marijuana market and monitors marijuana regulatory issues. “Instead of continuing to have an out of control underground market, Rhode Island has the opportunity to create a responsibly regulated, legal market. Workers will be better protected, provided salaries and benefits, and paying into the tax system.”
Regulate Rhode Island, a group of marijuana activists in the state, have been encouraging as many people as possible to testify at the hearing. While there will always be a handful (or handfuls by the dozen, in some cases) of people who just don’t want to hear it and are firm in their beliefs, no matter how outdated they may be, there will also always be people who are ready to finally look at things with an open mind – and personal testimony is one of the best ways to convince those people.
Other bills to be considered at the same time include adding PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions for the state’s medical marijuana program, speeding up medical marijuana patient applications when the patient is in hospice, providing additional three licenses for compassionate care centers around the state (which brings the total to six) as well as prohibiting employers from discriminating against an individual for being in the medical marijuana program.
All of these bills will be making significant steps forward for Rhode Island – but none quite like the Marijuana Regulation, Control and Taxation Act, which could put an end to statewide prohibition if passed. At this point, whether it’s Rhode Island or Vermont, I really hope one of them is able to pull through and actually pass a marijuana legalization law through legislature, therefore bringing confidence to states who might consider similar laws.