Tax and Regulate

Rhode Island Poll Shows Rising Support for Making Marijuana Legal for Adults

A new poll provides further evidence that an overwhelming majority of Rhode Island voters stand with us in supporting regulating marijuana like alcohol. The survey found that 3 out of 5 Rhode Islanders favor making marijuana legal for adults.

It’s encouraging that support continues to steadily rise (in 2015, support was at 57%), but it’s critical that we keep pushing. The Legislature won’t act unless their constituents contact them. If you are a Rhode Island resident, please tell your lawmakers to support ending marijuana prohibition.

You can see the full poll results here.

Rhode Island Sen. Joshua Miller and Rep. Scott Slater recently introduced the Cannabis Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act, which 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 establish the Office of Cannabis Coordination within the executive branch, which would be charged with coordinating among state agencies to establish a tightly regulated system of licensed marijuana retail stores, cultivation facilities, processing facilities, and testing facilities. The legislation would also create a 23% excise tax on retail marijuana sales in addition to the standard 7% sales tax.

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Tax and Regulate

Time for Rhode Island to Tax and Regulate Marijuana

A guest column from MPP's Mason Tvert appeared today in the Providence Journal in Rhode Island. An excerpt is below, and you can click here to read the entire piece.

Few social movements have advanced as far and as fast over the past decade as marriage equality and marijuana policy reform.

An October Gallup poll found a record-high 58 percent of Americans think it is time to make marijuana legal — a far cry from the 25 percent support when the same question was asked in 1995. In July, the pollster found a record-high 54 percent of Americans support recognizing same-sex marriage, up from just 27 percent in early 1996.

For both movements, increased public support has translated into legislative victories. Twenty states and the District of Columbia have legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes since 1996, and two states, Colorado and Washington, adopted laws last November to regulate marijuana like alcohol. Sixteen states and our nation’s capital now recognize same-sex marriage, with Hawaii and Illinois becoming the 15th and 16th this month.

Rhode Island has made significant headway on both issues.

The General Assembly approved a limited form of domestic partnership in 2002. In 2006, it approved a limited form of marijuana legalization, allowing individuals with certain debilitating illnesses to use it for medical purposes if their doctors recommend it. Lawmakers authorized civil unions in 2011, and last year the state decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Despite marijuana policy reform leading in the polls nationwide, marriage equality beat it to the finish line in Rhode Island with this year’s passage of a bill legalizing same-sex marriage. Meanwhile, the legislature punted on a bill to create a regulated and taxed marijuana market for adults. Despite being sponsored by a bi-partisan coalition of 19 House and Senate members, it did not receive a vote and instead was “held for further study.”

Now that legislators are over the rainbow, it’s time to take advantage of the pot of gold.

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Medical Marijuana

Rhode Island Patients Rally for Compassion Centers

In an unexpected slap in the face to local medical marijuana patients, last week the Rhode Island Health Department announced that it had rejected all 15 applicants to open the state’s first medical marijuana compassion center. Officials were originally supposed to reward the first licenses in June, but postponed after a series of delays. Rhode Island’s law calls for at least one, and up to three compassion centers to provide patients with safe access to their medicine.

So why weren’t any applications accepted? Well, because some had too many pages.

Nine applications fell short of the minimum score in the review process and the rest were disqualified for failing to comply with rules for applying.

The health department received eight formal letters of concern. Some letters questioned why an application exceeded the allowable page limit. Others raised issues about zoning requirements, site control, financing issues and residency requirements.

Locals are justifiably outraged, and organized a rally outside the Health Department yesterday to protest the decision.

“This is just horrible,” JoAnne Leppanen, executive director of the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition, told the Providence Journal. “This is such a disappointment that I cannot even tell you. I feel like the patients’ welfare is being lost in a bureaucratic haze.”

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Prohibition||Tax and Regulate

Providence Journal Says Time to Decriminalize Marijuana

Ongoing efforts to reform marijuana laws in Rhode Island received a huge endorsement today from the state’s largest newspaper. In this editorial, the Providence Journal calls for the decriminalization of marijuana, writing that “[t]he pursuit of nonviolent marijuana users puts enormous strain on the justice system, feeds corruption and wastes taxpayer dollars that could have been used more effectively elsewhere.”

This call for sensible marijuana reform comes just days before public hearings will be held by the state’s Marijuana Prohibition Study Commission, which was set up by the state Senate last year to study the cost of marijuana prohibition in Rhode Island. Last week, a bill to change the penalty for possession of marijuana from up to six months in jail to a civil fine was introduced into the state House, where nearly half of the representatives signed on as co-sponsors.

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