Rhode Island lawmakers will again take up adult-use cannabis legalization this year, but this time around, they are including a key detail in their proposal to help the legislation cross the finish line.
Legislators in the House and Senate introduced identical legislation March 2 that defines who will regulate the new industry, a detail that held up last year’s legalization proposal, according to The Providence Journal.
The bill establishes an independent three-member cannabis control commission to oversee the adult-use cannabis market, the news outlet reported. Oversight of Rhode Island’s medical cannabis industry, which is currently regulated by the Department of Business Regulation (DBR), would also eventually transition to the new commission under the legislation.
Last year, the Rhode Island Senate approved an adult-use cannabis legalization bill that called for a similar commission, but the House’s version of the legislation charged the DBR with regulating the new industry, The Providence Journal reported.
This year’s bill calls for up to 33 adult-use cannabis retail licenses to be issued in six zones, according to the news outlet, and nine medical cannabis dispensaries could expand to serve both markets.
Local municipalities interested in opting out of hosting adult-use retailers would be required to place the issue before voters on the November ballot under the legislation, The Providence Journal reported.
The bill would levy a 10% state cannabis excise tax in addition to Rhode Island's 7% sales tax, according to the news outlet, plus an additional 3% local tax.
The legislation would legalize the sale and possession of up to one ounce of cannabis for adults 21 and older, and calls for an Oct. 1 effective date, The Providence Journal reported. Adults would also be allowed to grow cannabis at home for personal use.
Rhode Island Sen. Joshua Miller told The Providence Journal that social equity is “a central focus of this legislation,” as it proposes using licensing fees and penalties to fund technical assistance and grants for applicants and minority communities that have been disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition.
In addition, the bill would set aside one license in each of the state’s six districts for social equity licensees, as well as one license in each district for co-op retail stores, The Providence Journal reported.
“The time for Rhode Island to move forward with cannabis legalization is now,” Miller told the news outlet. “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."