Legislature Approves MJ Legalization!

Good news! Following floor debates in both chambers of the General Assembly earlier today, a majority of Rhode Island legislators have approved legislation to legalize, regulate, and tax cannabis for adults. Governor McKee who has previously indicated he would sign the measure. With the governor’s approval, Rhode Island will become the 19th state to end marijuana prohibition. And it has an automatic expungement provision!

The Marijuana Policy Project has worked with lawmakers and a coalition of social justice organizations for several years to advance legalization. Jared Moffat, state campaigns manager for MPP, commended legislative leaders for passing a thoughtful and comprehensive legalization measure:

We are grateful to Rep. Scott Slater and Sen. Josh Miller for their years of leadership on this issue. Rhode Islanders should be proud of their lawmakers for passing a legalization bill that features strong provisions to promote equity and social justice. We’re also thankful to Rep. Leonela Felix who advocated tirelessly for the inclusion of an automatic expungement provision that will clear tens of thousands of past cannabis possession convictions.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Moffat specifically. Prior to his position with MPP, he had founded Regulate Rhode Island and spent years organizingd a coalition of professionals who testified at speaking engagements around the state and before the legislative committees. As a speaker for Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP) for over a decade, I was a member of that coalition and he did an amazing job. (I will be naming all the people I met through this effort at a later date.)

Moffat is still making himself useful to me; no sooner had today’s vote taken place than I received a comprehensive press release which you are basically reading right now. Here is his summation of this legislation:

  • Permits adults to possess and purchase up to one ounce of cannabis and cultivate up to three cannabis plants at home;
  • Directs the Rhode Island Judiciary to automatically clear past convictions for cannabis convictions by July 2024;
  • Creates a cannabis retail excise tax of 10%, in addition to the normal sales tax rate of 7%, with another 3% local sales tax;
  • Reserves a quarter of all new retail cannabis licenses for applicants that qualify as social equity businesses while another quarter of new licenses will be awarded to worker-owned cooperatives; and
  • Establishes a social equity assistance fund to provide grants, job training programs, and social services for communities disproportionately impacted by cannabis criminalization.

For me, this was primarily a social justice issue, but I also believe that adults should be allowed to smoke marijuana without fear of arrest.

And consider this: Massachusetts reported this month that adult-use marijuana establishments there have surpassed $3 billion in gross sales.

Nice to have some good news for a change.

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