Rhode Island Lawmakers Introduce Marijuana Legalization Bill


marijuanaLawmakers in the country’s smallest state, Rhode Island, introduced legislation to legalize marijuana earlier this week, a move that could make Rhode Island the third state to pass such a measure – leading the way for the rest of the country to do away with pot prohibition and allow citizens to make their own choices for recreation and health alike.

The bill would legalize the possession and use of recreational marijuana for adults ages 21 and over. If passed, they would be allowed to grow up to two plants in an “enclosed, locked space”, according to the Huffington Post. They’d also be allowed to possess up to one ounce of prepared marijuana.

“Marijuana prohibition has been a long-term failure,” said Rhode Island state Sen. Joshua Miller (D), co-sponsor of the bill in a  statement Wednesday. “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.”

The bill would also create a hefty excise tax of up to $50 per ounce in addition to the 10% sales tax, providing revenue to the state and making the legislation an easier sale to some otherwise-resistant lawmakers.

Rhode Island has a progressive track record on marijuana legislation, indicating this newest measure has a good shot.

Read: Congress Asks President to Reclassify Marijuana

The state was the eleventh to approve medical marijuana back in 2006 and followed that with decriminalizing possession of up to one ounce in 2013.

The most recent public poll in the state revealed people there support treating marijuana the same as alcohol, at a rate of 52%. Among voters loyal to a particular party, 55% of Democrats and 54% of Republicans supported legalization, according to the Marijuana Policy Project.

“As this polling demonstrates, the public is clearly aware that marijuana prohibition is failed policy and they are ready for change,” said Legislative Analyst Robert Capecchi back in January when the poll was taken. “The people of Rhode Island understand the need for sensible marijuana policy reform. Ending marijuana prohibition would created entire industries with hundreds of jobs, allow the government to collected needed revenue from responsible sales, and keep marijuana out of the hands of minors through thorough regulations.”

Rhode Island’s latest move towards marijuana legalization is just one step among many being taken across the country. While several states may see such measures go before voters in November, it will be interesting to see how elected officials handle the bill. If passed, it would be the first state to pass legalization in the legislature and the third to legalize pot, joining Colorado and Washington.