Lawmakers in Rhode Island are expected to introduce a bill into the state legislature Thursday that would legalize marijuana for recreational use and create a legal retail market in the state for the sale and taxation of the leafy commodity. Under the proposed law, called the Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act, adults 21 years old and older would be able to grow one mature marijuana plant and possess up to one ounce of pot.
“It’s time to regulate and tax marijuana in Rhode Island and treat it similarly to how we treat alcohol,” state Sen. Joshua Miller, a Democrat and chairman of the Senate Committee on Health & Human Services, said in an emailed statement. “Marijuana prohibition is an ineffective and wasteful policy, and we cannot afford to ignore it any longer. The legislature is perfectly capable of creating a system that will work for Rhode Island."
The law would permit pot shops and growing facilities to apply for licenses with the Department of Business Regulation.
Similar bills were recently introduced in Georgia, Texas and Vermont. In February, Vermont lawmakers submitted legislation to allow the legal sale of retail pot, the first state to attempt legalization via the state legislature. Other states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use did so by voter-approved ballot measures.
Rhode Island legalized medical marijuana in 2006. The law allows certain patients to register and obtain marijuana use cards from the Rhode Island Department of Health. In 2013, Gov. Lincoln Chafee signed a bill that significantly reduced the penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Rhode Island state Rep. Scott Slater, who has joined Miller in introducing the Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act, criticized the state’s approach to marijuana law enforcement so far, calling it a “failed” endeavor. “After decades of arresting citizens for marijuana and spending tens of millions of dollars enforcing punitive marijuana laws, it is clear that efforts to eliminate marijuana use have totally failed,” he wrote in an article published Thursday in GoLocal Prov. “Just like alcohol prohibition, marijuana prohibition has not eradicated marijuana from society. Instead, prohibition has created a vacuum filled by criminals who turn a profit off of the illicit marijuana industry."