Legalizing cannabis for adult use has ea topic of discussion for Rhode Island for years now – their medical marijuana program being one of the most successful on the east coast – and now lawmakers believe that they have the support needed to pass a bill to tax, regulate and legalize marijuana for adult use. That is, of course, if the bill manages to make it out of committee hearings to be heard by the General Assembly at large.
The first hearing over a legalization bill in the House Judiciary Committee will be held this week – and if it receives support there we might just see Rhode Island join the 8 other states where voters have implemented cannabis legalization. Representative Scott Slater believes that not only is there enough support to pass such a bill – but that they could have their legal industry up and running before neighboring Massachusetts, who has already delayed the voter-initiated industry once.
“We’ll definitely be able to beat Massachusetts to the punch,” Slater told the Associated Press. “They seem to keep delaying it.”
At this hearing there will be people showing up both in support and in opposition to the bill to speak their piece before there is a vote on whether or not it should move forward in legislature. Of those showing up in support of the bill is Regulate Rhode Island, the local chapter of the Marijuana Policy Project, a national pro-legalization group. They have estimated that Rhode Island could see tens of millions of dollars in revenue by the year 2020 if they were to get a head start and legalize marijuana now.
Opponents to the bill include the Attorney General, Peter Kilmartin, who is gathering others, including police and pediatricians who are in opposition of the bill to speak at the committee hearing as well. While arguments for the opposition will likely be stale – ones that have been repeated by the prohibitionists of every state which has already legalized marijuana – the arguments for legalization only continue to grow as it contributes to job growth, state revenue and so much more than simply allowing people to smoke and sell marijuana.
This hearing will determine whether or not the bill moves forward, giving the state the opportunity to become the first to legalize marijuana through legislature – which would also give them the advantage of being prepared to take on the challenge of creating a legal and regulated industry, unlike neighboring Massachusetts who is still debating on whether or not to change certain aspects of the voter-approved law. If all goes well, Rhode Island could have their legal cannabis industry up and running before the middle of next year. Otherwise, it will end up a topic of conversation for Rhode Island lawmakers yet again another year from now.