For the first time, Rhode Island lawmakers have sent legislation to legalize cannabis for adult use to the governor’s desk.
Both the House and the Senate voted on Tuesday to pass a compromise that was released last week and quickly advanced to each chamber’s floor, as Cannabis Wire reported.
The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Joshua Miller and Rep. Scott A. Slater, is the result of months of negotiations among lawmakers and between lawmakers and Gov. Dan McKee, who has put forth his own legalization proposal in his budget two years in a row. McKee will sign the adult use cannabis bill into law on Wednesday.
In introducing debate on the House bill, Slater called it “a solid platform to launch the legalization and sale of cannabis for adult use in Rhode Island.” He added that, like states that came before, lawmakers will have to “modify the original statute” to address new issues that arise and lessons learned.
The bill would make it legal for adults age 21 and older to possess and purchase cannabis, and to grow six plants at home, three of which can be mature. Any person with a conviction for a cannabis-related activity that would be made legal under the bill will be eligible for automatic expungement, which will take place by July 1, 2024.
A total of 33 shops will be licensed in the state, including nine medical cannabis shops that will be allowed to expand into adult use. Six of these licenses will be set aside for social equity applicants and another six for co-ops. Sales are set to begin this December. The total 20% tax on cannabis purchases includes a 10% excise tax, a 7% sales tax, and a 3% local tax. Localities could opt out of sales by referendum, except those localities where a medical cannabis shop currently exists.
McKee will appoint the three members of a newly-formed Cannabis Control Commission, which will oversee cannabis licensing and regulation in the state.
“The reality is that prohibition does not stop cannabis use. Since Rhode Islanders can already access cannabis just across the state border or on the illicit market, we experience all the challenges without any of the safeguards or resources that our neighboring states have,” Miller said in a statement. “With this bill, we are ending prohibition in a way that is safe, keeps revenue in Rhode Island, and is as fair and equitable as we can possibly make it.”
Adult use legislation has been debated for years in Rhode Island. Former Gov. Gina Raimondo included legalization in her final budget as well, as Cannabis Wire reported, though she was in favor of government-run shops.
Rhode Island will become the 19th state to legalize cannabis for adult use.