Rhode Island becomes 19th state to legalize marijuana

(The Center Square) – Marijuana is now legal to be consumed by Rhode Island residents age 21 and over.

Gov. Dan McKee signed Senate Bill 2430, which makes it the 19th state to legalize marijuana, and sets regulation, taxation, and the market of the drug. The legislation provides for expungement of civil and criminal marijuana possession charges that is to be completed by June 1, 2024.

“This bill successfully incorporates our priorities of making sure cannabis legalization is equitable, controlled, and safe,” the first-term Democrat who is up for reelection in the fall said in a release. “In addition, it creates a process for the automatic expungement of past cannabis convictions. My administration’s original legalization plan also included such a provision and I am thrilled that the Assembly recognized the importance of this particular issue. The end result is a win for our state both socially and economically.”

The governor was joined at the bill signing by Democrats Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos and Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey, and the bill’s sponsors, Senate Committee on Health and Human Services Chairman Joshua Miller, D-Warwick, and House Deputy Majority Leader Scott A. Slater, D-Providence.

According to the release, the new law allows for the possession and growing of cannabis in a residence. Market sales are scheduled to begin Dec. 1. The law also sets a framework for regulation with public health and public safety being a priority.

Under the new law, marijuana will be taxed at a rate of 20%, with a 10% marijuana tax, 7% sales tax, and a 3% tax that will be collected in towns where the product is sold. Numerous investments will be made to create an equitable, accessible market with application fee revenues and reservations from new licenses set aside for social equity applicants and worker-owned cooperatives.

The new law allows possession up to an ounce of marijuana and cultivation of up to three plants, while also setting up a regulatory commission to oversee the retail market.

“The reality is that prohibition does not stop cannabis use,” Miller said in the release. “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. 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.”

Rhode Island joins Massachusetts and Connecticut in legalizing marijuana.

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