After years of negotiations, Rhode Island is poised to legalize cannabis for adult use.
On Wednesday, identical bills passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Finance Committee, and they are now expected to see floor votes next week.
Both this year and last year, Gov. Dan McKee included legalization in his budget, and lawmakers put forth their own proposals, as Cannabis Wire reported. The revised legislation released and advanced this week is the product of extensive negotiations among lawmakers and McKee.
“I’m proud that everyone involved — the advocates, the existing industry, patients, legislative leaders and the governor’s office — worked very cooperatively to smooth out the bumps and create a proposal that works for all the stakeholders. We all wanted to do this in a way that is safe, keeps revenue in Rhode Island, and is as fair and equitable as we can possibly make it,” Sen. Josh Miller, the sponsor of the legislation alongside Rep. Scott Slater, said in announcing the revised legislation.
Under the revised bill, adult use sales would start in December of this year, and the state’s existing medical cannabis shops would go hybrid. There are three existing medical shops in the state, with another six more recently licensed. The bill allows for a total of 33 shops, including these nine hybrid medical-adult use ones. Home cultivation, which wasn’t included in McKee’s proposal, would be allowed.
Two big changes in the legislation came down to automatic expungement and to the Cannabis Control Commission, which would be created.
With expungement, the original legislation required individuals to request it, while the revision would automatically expunge any conviction for cannabis possession that would be legal under the legislation, and it would do so by mid-2024.
And with the Commission, McKee had an issue with the balance of power when it came to who would appoint its three members. Originally, lawmakers would pick two and provide the governor with a list from which they could pick one. Now, the governor gets to pick all three.
Much else in the legislation remains the same. The total tax of 20% includes a 10% excise tax, a 7% sales tax, and a 3% local tax. And localities will have to opt out by referendum; though, localities with shops right now cannot opt out of shops.