In a last ditch effort to put a recreational marijuana law on the books in Rhode Island, sooner rather than later, a couple of lawmakers have introduced a unique proposal designed to end marijuana prohibition without going all in, right out of the gate.
On Thursday, Senator Joshua Miller and Representative Scott Slater, in conjunction with the local cannabis advocacy group Regulate Rhode Island, revealed a proposal deemed “incremental legalization,” which they will attempt to push through the legislative sludge during the current session.
The bill would initially legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana for adults 21 and older, while establishing a six-person advisory panel to provide recommendations to the state legislature for how to launch a fully legal retail trade in the future.
The goal of the measure is to ensure that marijuana is legal in some capacity by July 2018 in order to coincide with the first day of legal sales in neighboring Massachusetts.
It is a sensible arrangement that the bill’s sponsors hope will get the legislature over its stubborn hump.
“We are prepared to compromise in a significant way, but there must be progress on the issue this year,” Miller said in a statement. “Our proposal balances the will of the majority of voters who want marijuana to be legal for adults while respecting colleagues who want to slow things down and get the regulations right.”
Earlier this week, legislative forces put their seal of approval on a measure aimed at studying the potential for marijuana legalization in Rhode Island. However, it is definitely not exactly the “harder and faster” look at legalization that Governor Gina Raimondo said was likely to happen last year if Massachusetts voters approved recreational marijuana in the November election.
Well, they did and there is still very little momentum in Providence.
The “incremental legalization” concept would do more than simply determine “if” the state should legalize, it would provide lawmakers with the “how,” without putting the citizens of Rhode Island at risk of being dragged down by law enforcement during the process.
If the measure proves successful, many other states all over the nation still on the fence about legalization, might begin to take steps toward this progressive reform. As it stands, most state lawmakers have an “all or nothing” attitude about legalization, which ultimately prevents any progress from happening at all.
But by introducing the idea of incremental legalization, perhaps more of the nation can begin to make the transition out of prohibitionary times without forcing lawmakers to answer so many questions at once.
Some of the latest data shows that Rhode Island could eventually rake in nearly $60 million in annual tax revenue from the sale of legal weed.