This Friday, the Rhode Island House will debate H 5151 Sub A, the budget bill for the coming fiscal year. As written, Article 15 of this legislation would make two significant changes to undermine the state's medical marijuana program.
First, the House budget would require all patients who wish to grow for themselves to register as their own caregiver. Then, it empowers the Department of Business Regulation to establish criteria for caregivers, which may include "eligibility" and "a demonstration of need." Depending on how the department uses this authority, it could effectively eliminate home cultivation for all but a few patients.
Second, while the current budget proposal would increase the number of compassion centers from three to nine, it also raises the annual licensing fee for these facilities to $500,000 a year, which is 10-100 times more than what most other states require for medical marijuana business licenses. This fee will ensure that only people with deep pockets can enter the market, and the increased costs will be passed down to patients in the form of increased prices.
Limiting patients' ability to grow their own medicine while simultaneously increasing costs for patients at the compassion centers is a cruel and unnecessary way to balance the budget. Enough is enough.
Thank you for taking action!
Sen. Joshua Miller (D - Cranston) is once again submitting a bill to legalize and regulate marijuana in Rhode Island. As marijuana businesses are poised to open their doors in Massachusetts this summer, Sen. Miller hopes his colleagues will understand the wisdom in acting now.
“Legal marijuana sales will be available to Rhode Islanders as soon as Massachusetts retailers start offering it in July,” Sen. Miller said. “But Massachusetts will keep the revenue from the purchases when Rhode Islanders cross the border to get it.”
This legislation would make it legal for adults 21 and older to grow and possess limited amounts of marijuana. It would also set up a system for the Department of Business Regulation to oversee the licensing and operation of legal marijuana businesses. Most importantly, Sen. Miller’s bill would end the failed approach of punishing adults who choose to use marijuana, a policy which has caused much harm in Rhode Island.
If you are a Rhode Island resident, please call your state senator and representative and ask them to push for a vote on Sen. Miller’s bill.
Earlier this month, a bill to regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol was introduced in the Rhode Island legislature.
The Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act, introduced by Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Cranston) and Rep. Scott Slater (D-Providence), would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow one mature marijuana plant in an enclosed, locked space. It would create a tightly regulated system of licensed marijuana retail stores, cultivation facilities, and testing facilities and direct the Department of Business Regulation to create rules regulating security, labeling, and health and safety requirements. It would also establish wholesale excise taxes at the point of transfer from the cultivation facility to a retail store, as well as a special sales tax on retail sales to consumers.
Huffington Post reports:
A 2014 poll found 52 percent in favor of changing marijuana laws, mirroring national trends. This is the fourth year that legislation to regulate and tax recreational marijuana has been introduced. It's unclear whether state lawmakers will support the new measure.
Legalized marijuana would boost the state treasury by $58 million a year in taxes, the Marijuana Policy Project projected.
"We want Rhode Island to be a leader on the East Coast and become an early adopter in order to get a competitive edge in the regional market to maximize job creation, tax revenue, and business growth in our state," Jared Moffat, director of the marijuana policy reform group Regulate Rhode Island, told The Huffington Post.