On Wednesday, May 25th, Governor Dan McKee signed the Rhode Island Cannabis Act into law, which effectively legalized cannabis for adults over the age of 21. In addition to implementing guidelines under which to sell and tax cannabis products, a key provision in this bill will also automatically expunge prior civil or criminal charges for cannabis possession, starting in 2024.
Federal cannabis laws are complicated and outdated, so it’s always wonderful when another state switches sides and legalizes adult use marijuana. To stay current on everything important happening in the industry, subscribe to The THC Weekly Newsletter. Also, it’ll get you premium access to deals on cannabis flowers, vapes, edibles, and much more! We’ve also got standout offers on cannabinoids, like HHC-O, Delta 8, Delta 9 THC, Delta-10 THC, THCO, THCV, THCP & HHC, which won’t kill your bank account. Head over to our “Best-of” lists to get these deals, and remember to enjoy responsibly!
Cannabis legalization in the US
As of now, 19 states and Washington, DC, have legalized recreational cannabis, and a total of 38 states have some type of medical cannabis program in place. This means that an overwhelming majority of Americans now have legal access to cannabis, especially when we consider that many of the states that legalized are also heavily populated (like CA, NY, and FL).
The only states that still don’t have any official cannabis legislation on the books are: Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Texas, Wisconsin, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. Some of these states’ governing bodies are working towards change, like Georgia and Texas, while others have explicitly stated that they will wait until it’s federally legal to establish a market, like Indiana.
What happened in Rhode Island?
Again, Gov. McKee signed a cannabis legalization bill into law last Wednesday. He emphasized the “equitable, controlled, and safe” nature of the bill, claiming that the “end result is a win for the state both socially and economically.”
Retail sales are set to begin on December 1st of this year, but as is common with new cannabis markets, expect to see delays. The plan is to transition the state’s existing three medical dispensaries into recreational stores, as well as providing licenses to 6 more stores that are currently in various stages of planning. A three-member ‘cannabis control commission’ appointed by the governor, will decide who receives the additional 24 licenses that are planned for the coming years.
Regarding taxes, recreational cannabis will be taxed at 20 percent which includes a new 10 percent general “cannabis” tax, a new 3 percent tax by the community where the marijuana is sold, and the current 7 percent sales tax.’
Additionally, this new law will give courts until July 1, 2024, to begin the process of automatically expunging past convictions. There are roughly 27,000 cases where possession of weed was the only charge, so those cases are all eligible for expungement. Anyone who wants their expungement sooner may submit a request for consideration.
“Social equity has been a top concern for us throughout this whole process,” said bill sponsor Rep. Scott A. Slater (D-Dist. 10, Providence). “Senator Miller and I represent some of the communities that have suffered disproportionate harm from prohibition for decades, resulting in generational poverty and mass incarceration. The starting line isn’t the same for people in poor, urban and minority communities, and they deserve support to ensure they get the full benefit of participating in legalization. I am grateful to my colleagues in the General Assembly for recognizing the importance of expungement of criminal records and equity in licensing, because they are absolutely critical to ending prohibition fairly,”
Why it’s a big deal
Rhode Island is our smallest state by land mass, but it is densely populated for its size, meaning a relatively large number of people will no longer have to worry about legal repercussions for simply using a therapeutic plant. These “small” victories in little states add up and contribute to the collective strategy to change cannabis laws at the federal level. Sixty U.S. senators will need to collaborate on this to get the ball rolling, and Rhode Island just added two more whose constituents now have a vested interest in federal cannabis reform.
Not to mention, we know that politicians pay attention to what others are doing in their states. Nobody wants to be the first to back or pass or a controversial new policy, but they certainly don’t want to be the last to adopt progressive policies either. As more states legalize, no matter how small or how sparsely populated, it puts a fire under the seat of policy makers in different regions, especially neighboring states.
Lawmakers in Rhode Island have been working on a legalization bill for the last ten years, so this was long overdue and faced very little opposition. Although the bill is relatively straightforward, you can more about it here if you’re interested. And welcome to the green side, Rhode Island!
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