Could this be the year? The conversation surrounding the legalization of recreational marijuana for adults sounds different this year. Once again, as he has done every year for at least a decade, Senator Josh Miller — along with Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey — has introduced a bill that would do just that. According to the ProJo:
The two sponsors said they envisioned the first retailers would probably be the state’s medical marijuana dispensaries (now three, but expected to grow to a total of nine this year) since those establishments already have the regulated infrastructures in place to pivot to selling recreational cannabis as well.
Good idea. I can attest that the Thomas Slater Compassion Center in Providence runs like clockwork. The three existing centers could then grow to a total of nine this year. And this sounds promising:
In a briefing with reporters Tuesday before the bill’s introduction, the sponsors said their 68-page proposal could meld well with the plan Gov. Dan McKee is expected to introduce Thursday legalizing recreational use of marijuana.
McKee may have noticed the the financial benefits being enjoyed by states across the country. For many marijuana reform advocates like myself*, legalizing marijuana was primarily a social justice issue and the Miller/McCaffrey bill has not forgotten the disproportionate impact experienced by people of color and impoverished communities these past 50 years by our failed war on drugs.
“We want to ensure as many Rhode Islanders as possible have the opportunity to participate in this new economy,” said Miller. “That is why we set low, tiered licensing fees and we are also calling for the creation of a cannabis equity fund to help individuals who have been directly and indirectly impacted by our past policy of prohibition.”
The fund would provide free assistance to people wanting to expunge their criminal records for previous marijuana-related offenses.
This is the least we can do.
(This photograph was taken in 2017, the year Mattiello once again made sure the legislation never made it out of committee by forming a totally pointless and unneeded “study commission.” At this time many of us decided our time and resources would be better spent working towards Mattiello defeat. The excellent Marijuana Policy Project has more on the history of Rhode Island’s marijuana legislation.)
*As a speaker for LEAP (Law Enforcement Action Partnership) I testified several years at the state house in support of marijuana reform. Should this bill finally go through this year, I will be writing about and thanking all the other committed advocates whose testimony illuminated this issue so persuasively and helped bring about this long overdue result.