Rhode Island
Last Update: February 23, 2015

R.I. Senate Judiciary Committee considers regulating marijuana like alcohol

In the early morning hours on Saturday, June 21, the Rhode Island Legislature adjourned the 2014 session. Unfortunately, it did so without taking a vote on legislation that would have legalized, regulated, and taxed marijuana similarly to alcohol. However, MPP and our allies at Regulate Rhode Island are committed to ending the failed policy of marijuana prohibition in the Ocean State. If you are a resident of the Ocean State, please email your state representative and senator today and ask them to support this sensible proposal next year.

The Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act proposed changing Rhode Island’s law in a manner similar to what voters enacted in both Colorado and Washington. The proposal would have allowed individuals 21 and older to possess and cultivate limited amounts of cannabis. It would also have directed the Department of Revenue to license and regulate marijuana producers and 10 retail marijuana stores. This sensible approach to marijuana is already creating hundreds of jobs and generating millions of dollars of new revenue for Colorado. A report issued by OpenDoors estimates that the proposed Rhode Island model would generate between $21.5 and $82 million a year in much needed new tax revenue.

Many thanks to everyone who helped build support and make the case for this including, but not limited to, Dr. David Lewis, Beth Comery from LEAP, the RI ACLU, Jim Vincent from the NAACP, Prof. Andy Horwitz from Roger Williams University School of Law, Rebecca McGoldrick from Protect Families First, and our friends at Regulate Rhode Island

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Changes made to Rhode Island’s medical marijuana program

The 2014 legislative session did bring some changes to Rhode Island’s marijuana laws. The legislature passed, and Gov. Lincoln Chafee signed, a bill that places restrictions on medical marijuana patients and caregivers who wish to cultivate their medical marijuana together. The bill, introduced by Lisa Tomasso (D) at the behest of the attorney general, explicitly allows medical marijuana patients and caregivers to cooperatively cultivate, but, among other things, places restrictions on how large these cooperative gardens can be. The law also makes changes to the application and approval process for medical marijuana caregivers. For more information on these changes, please see our summary of the legislation.

2012 proves to be big year for marijuana policy reform in Providence

In 2012, MPP — along with our local allies — helped usher through much needed marijuana policy reform in Rhode Island. The legislature and Gov. Lincoln Chafee removed the threat of jail time for simple possession of marijuana and revised the state’s medical cannabis law to ensure full implementation of the medical marijuana dispensary program.

In June 2012, Gov. Chafee signed legislation to replace the criminal penalties for adults’ possession of up to an ounce of marijuana with a civil violation of $150 for most violations! S2253/H7092 was sponsored by Sen. Josh Miller and Rep. John Edwards and went into effect on April 1, 2013. In May 2012, a full year after halting implementation of the compassion center program citing fears of federal interference, Rhode Island Gov. Chafee signed legislation that was written to alleviate his concerns so that the compassion centers could finally move forward.

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