Recreational Cannabis Approved By Rhode Island Senate

Recreational Cannabis Approved By Rhode Island Senate

In a sweeping and somewhat unsurprising move, the Rhode Island Senate voted to approve recreational cannabis on Tuesday. This posits the Ocean State to join its two bordering neighbors, Massachusetts and Connecticut, in legalizing adult-use cannabis and, if it goes through the house, would make them the fifth state to do so in 2021. But if it feels to you like all of this cannabis legalization is happening rapidly, don’t be fooled – proposals for cannabis legalization bills in R.I were introduced back in March and have a long way to go before they can hope to be signed into law. 

Part of the push for R.I to legalize recreational cannabis, which came largely from Senators Joshua Miller, Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey, and House Rep. Scott Slater, was the impending legalization in their neighboring state, Connecticut. Rhode Islanders have easy access to the already legalized state of Massachusetts and, as of yesterday, will soon have easy access to legal cannabis in Connecticut. Sen. Miller was particularly concerned about this. “I think that we should act sooner rather than later before we end up with a marketplace that is based in Rhode Island [with] no revenue to Rhode Island,” he said to WPRI 12 on June 9th

But Governor Dan McKee, who does support legalization but with different provisions that those put forth by the Senate, says it’s not high on his list of priorities. “We’re not in a race with Connecticut or Massachusetts on this,” he told the same local outlet yesterday after the vote. The general consensus seems to be that the House will likely convene a special session when they return in the late Summer or Fall. And when they do, there will be quite a few important points to iron out. 

Although the recreational cannabis proposal bill made it through the Senate, the House and the Governor don’t fully agree with all of the Senate’s provisions. According to the Associated Press, Sen. Miller’s proposal includes a 20% marijuana sales tax, the formation of an independent cannabis commission, the allowance of home growing, and a special “Cannabis Equity Fund” that would serve those from disadvantaged communities and those affected by the War on Drugs. Gov. McKee would rather a cannabis commission not form, instead proposing that the Department of Business Regulation handle the state’s cannabis industry. He also does not want to allow home growing.  

As we know from watching other states clamor to enact cannabis regulations, we know all too well that these proceedings will likely do two things: 1. Go on seemingly forever and 2. Not everyone will get what they want in the end. But as the Summer rolls on, we’ll be keeping an eye on R.I.’s progress.

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