Over the past seven years, Rhode Island lawmakers have been trying and failing to pass legislation that would legalize the recreational use and sale of cannabis – but after the multitude of marijuana-related wins in the most recent election, state lawmakers may finally be more inclined to move in that direction.
Their neighboring state of Massachusetts and nearby Maine became the first states on the east coast of the United States to legalize the adult use of marijuana in the 2016 election. However, Massachusetts has already delayed the sale of the plant by an additional six months, pushing it back to mid-2018; and Maine only won the election by a hair and may also be facing delays.
On one hand, this gives Rhode Island lawmakers just a little bit more time to make their decision – but they still have to make it sooner than many of them were probably ready for. Two lawmakers in particular, Senator Joshua Miller and Representative Scott Slater, are ahead of the game and have already introduced a bill that would make recreational use and sales of the plant legal.
“Our constituents think it is time for lawmakers to pass this legislation, and we should listen to them,” Miller said in a statement. “If we fail to pass the bill this year, we will lose significant ground to Massachusetts.”
Of all the things that have convinced Miller and Slater that legalization is the right way to go, the two major ones are that residents will simply cross the border to Massachusetts to buy their marijuana, and the fact that the state is losing out on a source of revenue that could provide them with millions in needed funding.
“We have had several years to see how regulation works in Colorado and Washington,” Slater, the state representative, said in a statement. “And we have learned important lessons from their experiences. This legislation represents a sensible policy reform that has been shown to work successfully in other states.”
The proposed bill would legalize cannabis use for adults 21 and older and would tax the retail sale of the plant at 23%. Modeled after the successful laws in states like Colorado, Washington and Oregon – who have been selling legal cannabis for a couple of years already – it seems likely that this bill will get more attention than the ones like it in years past.
If it were to pass the Senate and the House, which are both dominated currently by Democrats (giving it a much better chance), then it would end up on the desk of Governor Gina Raimondo, who has said she is open to the idea. Assuming the bill is strong enough to make it to her desk, it seems likely that Rhode Island could actually become the next state to legalize, and the first to do so through legislature.