Rhode Island House, Senate to vote on marijuana legalization this week


(The Center Square) – Marijuana legalization is the focus of a pair of identical bills that will be heard in the Rhode Island General Assembly this week.

On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on Senate Bill 2430, sponsored by Sen. Joshua Miller, D-Cranston, at 3:30 p.m., while the House Finance Committee will host a vote on House Bill 7593, sponsored by Rep. Scott A. Slater, D-Providence, at 5 p.m.

Both bills call for the legalization of marijuana for adults over the age of 21 and would set up parameters for regulation, taxation, sale, and possession of the federally listed Schedule I drug.

Miller, who serves as chairman of the Senate’s Health and Human Services committee, said in March that “the time for Rhode Island to move forward with cannabis legalization is now.”

“This historic shift in public policy will create a vibrant new marketplace in our state and end the failed practice of prohibition, which has caused such harm to so many in our communities,” Miller said at the time. “To help address those past wrongs, and to ensure all Rhode Islanders have the opportunity to share the economic benefits associated with legalizations, equity is a central focus of this legislation.”

Under the legislation, provisions would be set for social equity that would be designed to reduce barriers for individuals in communities that have been disproportionately affected by prohibition of marijuana use.

Both bills would call for the drug to be regulated and licensed, and would also call for enforcement requirements for establishments that would be authorized to sell marijuana. In addition, each bill includes a provision for a ballot referendum for Rhode Island voters to cast “yes” or “no” votes on allowing cannabis businesses to operate in their communities.

If enacted, the bills would call for a three-member commission that would work to implement, administer, and enforce regulations for adult use and for medical marijuana, as well.

The commission would work in tandem, according to the bills, with the Cannabis Advisory Board, which would be an 11-member board consisting of three candidates each appointed by the Senate and the House. Other members would be appointed by the governor and who are not elected officials at any level.

The Cannabis Control Commission, according to the bills, would oversee all regulation and licensing of marijuana. The commissioner of the board would be paid a yearly salary, while other members appointed to the commission would receive a monthly stipend through the governor’s office. Of the 11 members, only three would be voting members.

The bills call for a 10% sales tax on all sales the state would use to fund programs and activities related to marijuana, including program administration, revenue collection and enforcement, substance use disorder prevention programs, and other health services.

A 3% local tax is also written into the bill that would go to local communities.

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