Will Marijuana Be Legalized In Rhode Island This Year?
At the start of the week, the Senate committee of Rhode Island has passed a piece of cannabis legislation. This bill is now being championed by heads in the chamber. This new bill will be the first time that piece of legislation like this has advanced in the state. The current cannabis bill is to legalize recreational marijuana in Rhode Island.
Back in April, The Judiciary Committee conducted a hearing in regards to reform legislation. In addition to this, a competing proposition from the governor was approved by the Senate bill in substitute form in a 6-2 victorious decision. Now a 3rd cannabis bill was recently filed on the House side. Which was done by Rep. Scott Slater as well as several other cosponsors.
Curiously, the Senate panel’s effort happened just days following other political actions. Meaning House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi indicated that legalization wouldn’t be taken up until the summer or fall. Yet the Senate is showing a different strategy with the anticipation to take up its proposal for a floor vote. Which could take place as early as next week.
There were several important revisions made to the Senate bill before it passing through the committee. This included inflicting a halt on allowing additional marijuana cultivators. This is something that Rhode Island’s current medical cannabis producers have asked for. Mainly because they state that the market is already oversaturated.
More Progress For Cannabis Reform In Rhode Island
Additionally, one-third of licenses for cannabis retailers would now be saved for businesses that qualify as social equity candidates. Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey and Health & Human Services Chairman Joshua Miller are the lead sponsors of the bill. Both of whom introduced this proposal back in March. Which was done just days before Gov. Dan McKee came out with his legalization proposal. That legislation was also heard by the House Finance Committee 2 months ago. The most recent House bill has still not received a hearing. Overall, the Senate bill would permit those 21 and older to purchase and possess up to 28 grams of marijuana. As well they could also grow up to six plants for personal use.
The Next For Legal Marijuana In Rhode Island
A way to regulate the state’s market would be done so by A Cannabis Control Commission. Also, this Commission would be in charge of deploying business licenses. Marijuana would be subjected to Rhode Island’s seven percent sales tax. This is in addition to a 10 percent special tax and a three percent local tax for areas that permit cannabis businesses to operate in their jurisdictions.
An alternate version was approved by the committee. Which makes it so there “shall be no new cannabis cultivators’ licenses issued prior to July 1, 2023.” Regulators would also be tasked with reviewing data yearly to “determine the maximum number of licenses that shall be issued to meet the production demands.”
It was also modified from its original form because it needed labor peace agreements for marijuana businesses. This would act as a stipulation that could reinforce support among progressives. Driving while under the influence would be prohibited, but people can’t be considered impaired “solely for having cannabis metabolites in his or her system” under the bill. That signifies an expansion of the first bill, which would have only involved the protection of medical cannabis patients.
Those with past cannabis possession crimes could have their records expunged. Buy only if they were busted with up to 56 grams of cannabis.
Now whereas the earlier version capped that limit at 28 grams of marijuana. Still, courts would have 3 months, instead of one month, to take action on expungement petitions. In addition to expungements, the amended legislation currently includes terms to provide aid record sealing. People or entities cannot own more than one marijuana business license. However, the alternate version now explains that people would be able to invest in various operations.
Final Thoughts On Legal Cannabis In Rhode Island
Each district could have at least three cannabis businesses operating in their area., Although the community threshold for additional licensees was expanded. This made it so extra retailers could be approved for every additional 20,000 residents above a baseline of 30,000. The first proposal placed the limit at every 10,000 people over the 30,000 baseline. Essentially this would have the effect of restricting the number of marijuana businesses.
The bill’s passage out of the Judiciary Committee comes in opposition to recent comments from House leadership. A speaker from the house stated that it’s “possible we will return sometime in the summer or fall”. Which be done to tackle cannabis legalization. He said the main concern is to pass the budget this month. The governor also stated that he “wouldn’t be surprised if this is something that gets carried over maybe to a fall session.”
As well, Michael McCaffrey recently shared is thoughts on the matter. He said that, unlike Slater and the governor, he doesn’t want to have the market regulated through the state Department of Business Regulation. Instead, he feels it’s necessary to “have a separate commission in one form or another.”
As legislators have fought to pass a budget, there have been many questions about whether there’s enough support for legalization. The House speaker has not been so vocal on cannabis reform. Looking at his recent comments on handling the matter as early as this summer is notable.
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