There are many states who are well on their way to legalizing marijuana and ending prohibition altogether – Rhode Island has been attempting to legalize the herb for a while and regardless of the overwhelming support of the state’s citizens, the legislature has continued to deny their requests.
Similar to the situation in Vermont, Rhode Island voters do not have the luxury to initiate a change to the state constitution – which means that this will be entire left up to elected officials to figure out. This will be the second year in a row that near identical legislature has been proposed – hopefully with better results this time around.
The bill would legalize marijuana as a regulated and taxed industry for adult use over the age of 21. Filed in the House by Rep. Scott Slater and in the Senate by Rep. Joshua Miller, the bill is intended to regulate the cannabis industry in a fairly similar fashion to how alcohol is regulated while also legalizing cultivation and production of industrial hemp.
This proposed bill was announced recently – about a week after the Governor, Gina Raimondo, submitted a rather controversial proposal for the new budget. Almost everything remained as it always has been – except medical marijuana taxes on personally grown plants, which have never been imposed before.
Plenty of people are outraged at this decision – we’ve never taxed any other medicine, so why medical marijuana patients should be forced to pay a tax on the plants they grow is beyond me. The suggested new tax would be a fee of $150 annually from each medical marijuana patient – as well as $350 charged to caregivers for each cannabis plant they grow.
The bill, if passed, would “tag” all the plants that are grown from home, therefore making them a “legally grown” plant. The estimated revenue from this tax would be $8.4 million – but with thousands more who would be willing to pay a tax to buy and consume marijuana legally they could have the potential to make this much many times over.
It was likely this that lead Rhode Island representatives to file the bill so soon. If the bill were to pass, recreational users who have never paid a tax on their cannabis due to the black market would finally be paying tax. That right there would eliminate the need to have medical marijuana patients taxed for their medicine.
No other state has ever proposed a tax like this on homegrown cannabis – in fact for most states whether you are consuming medically or recreationally, the best benefit of growing marijuana yourself is the less expensive option for those who simply cannot afford dispensary prices.
While at the same time putting the black market to rest, it would also make the fears that some patients may be abusing the medical marijuana system to consume or sell to the black market themselves. With a legal system in place, anyone who was formerly abusing the system would have no leverage to do so – and considering this was the Governor’s other reason for imposing the taxes on medical marijuana patients passing a legalization bill could resolve a lot of problems in one shot.
Almost a year ago in Rhode Island, support for legalizing marijuana was polled at 57% for legalization – a percentage which would definitely win if a ballot initiative were possible. With citizens of the state clear on what they want and a few representatives who are ready to stand up for it, we can only hope the state of Rhode Island officials will end up making the right decision – legalize the plant, tax the recreational consumers and leave medical marijuana patients with affordable access to the medicine they need.