This week, the Rhode Island legislature will, for the second year in a row, review a bill to legalize marijuana in the state, and regulate and tax it like alcohol.
Last year’s proposed legislation, a combination of Senate Bill 510 and House Bill 5777 known as the Marijuana Regulation, Control and Taxation Act, garnered wide support among voters in the state and was expected to pass in the legislature. But last June, lawmakers called a recess and tabled the bill before it could be voted on.
This year, Democrats Rep. Scott Slater (D-Providence) and Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Cranston) will once again introduce the bill, which would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana flower and a single plant. The bill would also establish a system for licensing retail stores, cultivation operations, testing labs, and set health and safety standards, along with labeling requirements.
But the stakes are higher this year, as Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo recently unveiled a marijuana tax proposal specifically targeting the 10,000 medical marijuana patients in the state — including a sky-high tax rate of $150-$350 per marijuana plant. The plan ignores the far greater revenue potential of recreational users, who theoretically number over 100,000, should cannabis prohibition end.
SB 510/HB 5777 would tax recreational users, likely generating far more tax revenue than the proposed $8.4 million the Governor could squeeze out of medical patients.
The bill has widespread support in the state from public health officials, doctors, and law enforcement. A poll conducted last year showed more than 57% of Rhode Island voters support legalization, while only 35% oppose.
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