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Bill Introduced to Legalize, Tax Marijuana in Rhode Island

Will Rhode Island lead the way to legal recreational pot in New England? Is it an answer for some of the state's financial woes?

File photo.
File photo.
Could Rhode Island be the next state to legalize recreational use of marijuana?

If it did, would Rhode Island see a tax windfall such as in Colorado, which has seen droves of pot-seeking tourists driving in from out of state to pick up legal weed in addition to a strong local market for recreational marijuana use?

These are questions members of the Rhode Island General Assembly will have to ask after a bill that would regulate and tax legal recreational marijuana was introduced on Wednesday.

"Marijuana prohibition has been a long-term failure,” said bill sponsor Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence). “Forcing marijuana into the underground market ensures authorities have no control of the product. Regulating marijuana would allow the product to be sold safely and responsibly by legitimate businesses in appropriate locations.”

A companion bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Edith Ajello (D-Dist. 1, Providence).

According to a release, the measure would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow up to two marijuana plants (only one may be mature) in an enclosed, locked space; establish a tightly regulated system of licensed marijuana retail stores, cultivation facilities, and testing facilities; enact an excise tax of up to $50 per ounce on the wholesale sale of marijuana flowers applied at the point of transfer from the cultivation facility to a retail store (a special 10-percent sales tax will also be applied at the point of retail sale); and require the Department of Business Regulation to establish rules regulating security, labeling, health and safety requirements.

"Regulation allows us to create barriers to teen access, such as ID checks and serious penalties for selling to those under 21. Taxing marijuana sales will generate tens of millions of dollars in much-needed tax revenue for the state, a portion of which will be directed towards programs that treat and prevent alcohol and other substance abuse," Alejo said.

Miller and Alejo were flanked by a consortium of public officials who represent key stakeholders in both potential decriminalization and past enforcement of marijuana laws.

They were joined by Dr. David Lewis, founder of the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies at Brown University; Michelle McKenzie, Board member of Protect Families First and Director of Preventing Overdose and Naloxone Intervention; former Providence police officer Beth Comery; and former Warren High School and Mt. Hope High School teacher Pat Smith.
George Costanza February 13, 2014 at 02:35 PM
Agree with all the posters here that the "war on drugs" is an abject failure. However, recreational pot will not be legal in RI, at least not soon. Gov. Lincoln Chafee is against legalization, why? Because the police and correctional officers unions are against legalization? But wouldn't legalization make their jobs easier? Yes, except that marijuana prohibition is a major source of revenue for law enforcement, not only from seizure of assets, but prohibition supports hundreds of law enforcement jobs. The State of WA is already seeing pressure to cut law enforcement positions, same in CO. Police unions across the Country are for prohibition, and in RI, the strongest "Pro-Union" state in the USA, the police unions will easily have their way. Get rid of Gordon Fox and Theresa Paiva-Weed and you might have a chance.
G3 February 13, 2014 at 02:59 PM
I agree George, Paiva-Weed is quite the stick in the mud.
Brew February 13, 2014 at 03:49 PM
"Forcing marijuana into the underground market ensures authorities have no control of the product. " This should be good. Things always get better when The Authorities get involved. :| How much will it be taxed and where will the money go? If they use it to build a casino I'll be super pissed. And Brian! The next time you hear of someone getting their 14th DUI remember how kind-hearted and understanding The Authorities are! The system is fair! The system is balanced! Everything makes perfect sense! As long as you don't think about it.
Leave RI February 14, 2014 at 09:42 AM
I like the idea. There's money to be made here. Visine etc. I'll open snack stands next to all of the stores and make a killing on the burn outs.
G3 February 14, 2014 at 10:31 AM
Because everyone who smokes is a burnout... Just like everyone who drinks is an piece of shit alcoholic. I see no flaws in this logic.
brian dupont February 14, 2014 at 11:02 AM
Other than any medical relief the only reason to smoke pot is to get high...Plain and simple... I don't have a need to get high.
G3 February 14, 2014 at 11:14 AM
And people drink alcohol to drunk? Oh that's right, people only ever drink to enjoy themselves...to be sociable. If that's not a double standard, I don't know what is.
RIinsider February 14, 2014 at 11:15 AM
Mr. Costanza is right...we won't see this bill pass this year. Not only is this Pot-head bill a job killer for law enforcement, but the leadership in the General Assembly are uncomfortable with the notion because a large chunk of our state revenue already comes from gambling. And, since the compassion centers have netted a mere $150K in tax revenue in the last seven months, it is unlikely that this will become an argument for revenue. Bottom line is this...in RI, the leadership always gets its way. And, in this case, they don't want this bill to pass. Sorry stoners, maybe next year.
Rusty February 14, 2014 at 11:50 AM
I just know that this money will disappear just like the lot money and the gambling money,if not this would be good for the State I know Coventry could use some and fast before the next Fire Tax bill comes,,
MikeD February 14, 2014 at 11:51 AM
Sorry, but I don't care that law enforcement will suffer. The police only care about their own self-interests. The job of the police is to enforce the laws already on the books, not to influence policy in its favor. The war on drugs, specifically marijuana, is not about public safety... it's about money. Our state government is amenable to the influence of money. The senate president and house speaker will ensure nothing changes by doing everything possible to table this bill for another year for "further study". Top Five Special Interest Groups Lobbying To Keep Marijuana Illegal 1. Police unions 2. Private prisons 3. Beer and alcohol companies 4. Big Pharma 5. Prison guard unions
Leo February 14, 2014 at 12:44 PM
Republicans don't want marijuana legalized so keep them out of office.
RIinsider February 14, 2014 at 01:23 PM
Actually, Leo...the bill has bipartisan support, from both Dems and Repubs. The problem is house speaker Fox and senate president Paiva-Weed, both Democrats.
Leave RI February 14, 2014 at 02:02 PM
They'll have to lower all GPA's at colleges to allow1.5 as Deans list material. Well maybe they'll allow the burnouts to meander into any campus. Lmao.
Toxic Avenger February 14, 2014 at 03:40 PM
Leave ri Haha burnouts... your a funny guy, not smart but funny. Sorry but tide has turned. Soon due to legalization the same people that feared the evil MJ may switch from the dangerous form of inebriation called alcohol to the very pleasant and never dangerous MJ. Once it's legal the stigma associated with MJ will go away very quickly. No deaths have been recorded due to smoking weed, can you say the same about alcohol...I know you can't. Medical MJ has it's merits that cannot be denied . Many ailments are relieved due to MJ. Recreational use has it's merits as well and will bring in big dollars in taxes. The reason the compassion centers are not bringing more tax revenue is simple. They are too expensive. Legalization will bring in competition which equates to more revenue. Pfffft.
Leave RI February 14, 2014 at 06:51 PM
Awwww yeah...the duuuuude abides....now where did I put my kid down?....oh there you are Rainbow Pony...you know daddy and Moonbeam need that formula to sell...that's a good little kid. Have this organic sweet potato...I'm going to float down to the "medicine shop" and be right back.
Toxic Avenger February 14, 2014 at 07:29 PM
Hey leave ri when I said you were funny it was a Sarcastic remark. If you missed that then you should put the bottle down and sober up. Fat drunk and stupid is no way to go thru life...Dean Werner
RIinsider February 14, 2014 at 08:51 PM
Its Dean Wormer...
Leave RI February 14, 2014 at 10:31 PM
Thanks! I'll be here all week. Try the veal. Actually I was having a BLT and Mt Dew...and you're correct fat drunk and stupid is no way to go through life....unless your a burn out. Then you're fat, burned out, stupid. (see what I did there?) Good night Ma'am. .. Riinsider is correct if it was the Animal House guy Toxic was some how disparaging an Air Force Haji Hunter
Brew February 14, 2014 at 11:16 PM
"Awwww yeah...the duuuuude abides....now where did I put my kid down?....oh there you are Rainbow Pony...you know daddy and Moonbeam need that formula to sell...that's a good little kid. Have this organic sweet potato...I'm going to float down to the "medicine shop" and be right back." Rainbow Pony...um I mean Leave RI, are you flashing back to your childhood? I recommend hardcore pharmaceuticals.
RIinsider February 15, 2014 at 07:07 AM
Anybody who thinks that legalization is going to drive prices down, is sadly mistaken. Look at CO, where people are still paying over $60/eigth, because it's taxed to high hell!! And, for you medical growers, enjoy your 12 plants while you can...things will change quite quickly once big business crushes the local market and any competition from local growers. In fact, the 10 "retail licenses" the state plans to issue will certainly go to the folks who wrote this bill...and, to maximize profits (the goal of doing business) these out of state gangapreneaurs will most certainly keep their prices sky high! You don't have to look any further than CO to know that the same thing will happen here.
Jay February 15, 2014 at 04:10 PM
It's just a matter of time before it's legal. It's already decriminalized in numerous states including RI and MA. It's going to happen. I don't know why some people have to be such hypocrites about it. Most people in our country smoke pot. And quite a few are very educated people. Teachers, doctors, business owners. The sky has yet to fall in Washington and Colorado.
Leave RI February 15, 2014 at 06:28 PM
@Brew...LMAO! If you didn't recognize the stoner quotes I'll understand...sit back get some popcorn. I'll be back in the area in a few days.
Brew February 16, 2014 at 10:22 AM
Leave ri. I know the dude abides bit from big lebowski. Not sure about rainbow pony. Any relation to sparkle pony? cuz sparkle pony rocks. Plus, I hear he' holding. Hope he doesn't get busted.Do you know what they do to ponies in the slam?!?!!
Leave RI February 16, 2014 at 11:32 AM
Ha ha Sparkle IS the burn out pony. I was giving a soft landing to the stoners' who think Rainbow Pony would be a good name. The actual Rainbow Dash Pony is a kids character. So now I must take my niece Moon Unit (see what I did there) to her mushroom sculpting class since her parents have no gas money.
Brew February 16, 2014 at 12:51 PM
Do you sculpt things into mushrooms or do you sculpt mushrooms into other things like, say, a birthday cake you have to eat your way out of? (FLASHBACKING!!) Either way, Dweezil is going to feel left out.
Leave RI February 16, 2014 at 02:50 PM
I just roll out with my chronic...save the baking for the the elementary schools...oh no Dweezil...I spaced him off is he still in the tub?
Brew February 16, 2014 at 03:23 PM
Yup he's in the tub. CRYING thank you very much. You're always "ohh moon unit this moon unit that let's make everything about moon unit." Meanwhile! Look what you've don't to poor Dweezil! He suffers! All I'm saying is make an effort with the poor boy.
Joe The Plumber February 17, 2014 at 01:19 PM
Our political leadership in Rhode Island is not smart enough to create an environment that attracts companies that create jobs, create wealth, and pay taxes like manufacturing, software development, transportation, aerospace, bio-medical. No not these industries, but they will legalize marijuana as a quick and easy fix. And the near sighted voters in Rhode Island will be satisfied that this is the solution to our economic problems. I guess if they all smoke enough of it they will anesthetize themselves and will feel better not dealing with the reality that what we really need in this state is industry and a well trained and educated workforce. Not a workforce full of potheads. While Ajello and Miller sit around high smoking pot, this state's economy is also going up in smoke.
Boon Mcnolys February 17, 2014 at 06:18 PM
I don't want to start a massive Marijuana debate but here are my questions. If Marijuana is legalized,state regulated and taxed. Does that mean drug testing for Marijuana has no more negative effects on job applications? Or current employment in Rhode Island? Example: If Marijuana is legal in Rhode Island, applying for jobs or Employment that regularly include pre Drug screenings, Marijuana( THC) wont matter? When a drug test wildly appears at work and your employer says a month later "You have THC in your system". You can say "Its legal in Rhode Island." (?) Not trying to Degrade Alcohol users but lots of Rhode Islanders are Alcohol "enthusiast". That includes Police, Fire, National Guard, state employees, judges and lawyers. These DRUGS are abused everyday. Alcohol, Caffeine ( a Rhode Island favorite) Nicotine and many (not all) over the counter medications. They have no effect on pre employment applications or Current randomized drug testing at work. Except maybe a lack of performance. (maybe) So Marijuana will join these drugs and be negated as well?
Leave RI February 17, 2014 at 06:34 PM
I work for the DoD as a contractor. You can be randomly selected (like a CDL license) to test for any drug prohibited on their list regardless of the state you live in. Even if you visit foreign countries such as the Netherlands where marijuana and some other banned drugs have their own "cafe's" and you came back from vacation and tested positive you'd be fired or suspended. That's my only first hand knowledge on the "testing" issue. I don't know what "private" companies such as Hasbro et al are able to to.

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