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Rhode Island to Become 19th US State to Legalize Recreational Marijuana

Legislatures in the Rhode Island House and Senate unanimously enacted limited-license, social-equity focused legislation last Tuesday, thus setting up the state to become the 19th legal, adult-use recreational cannabis state in the US. Not only that, but this bill, H7593, includes some key aspects based on equality that make it’s especially appealing to and encouraging for the legal cannabis industry in US.
With the stroke of a pen, Rhode Island on Wednesday joined its two neighboring states in 16 others and legalizing recreational use of cannabis.
Less than 24 hours after lawmakers overwhelmingly passed the bill, Governor Dan Mackey signed the measure, which promises automatic expungement of past marijuana possession convictions and reserves a quarter of new retail store licenses for minority communities disproportionately hurt by the war on drugs.

The Establishment Of H7593

The Rhode Island House of Representatives passed an amended H7593 by a vote of 55-16, while the state Senate adopted a similar bill, S2430, by a vote of 32-6, leaving New Hampshire as the only New England state without adult-use marijuana legalization.

Opponents highlighted concerns about potential safety and public health dangers, particularly for children and teenagers; nonetheless, we can be thankful that these opponents did not receive the unfavorable conclusion they hoped for.

Another thing that we can be thankful for is the thought and consideration that went into making this bill one with significant arrangements to promote social justice and equity.

H7593 – Justice And Equity Features

The Marijuana Policy Project’s state campaigns manager, Jared Moffat, praised Rhode Island lawmakers for crafting an accomodating and exhaustive legalization bill, stating that for Rhode Islanders, the inclusion of significant provisions to develop and advance social equity and justice is something that they can (and should) be proud of legislators for incorporating.

Some of the inclusions in question are the division of a cannabis advisory board that will suggest regulations and make recommendations on the distribution of a social equity support fund to the Cannabis Control Commission. Additionally, the social equity assistance will include fee exemptions, grants, and technical assistance.

Not only that but licensed stores will be required to have a labor peace agreement with a union, which can help employers maintain a positive relationship with their workforce.

The regulation of adult-use recreational and medical cannabis, as well as the issuing of recreational licenses, will be done by the Cannabis Control Commission, mentioned above, which will be a three-member commission to be appointed by the Governor. Licenses for social consumption sites, marijuana delivery services, and other categories may be recommended by said commission to the General Assembly.

Also related to licensing, as long as the existing 60+ MMJ cultivators are in good standing, they will be issued adult-use licenses. Otherwise, after the final rules and regulations are finalized, there will be a two-year embargo on issuing new cultivation permits.

Except in places where medical cannabis dispensaries already exist, municipalities can opt-out of the adult-use market. Existing MMJ growers will be allowed to participate in the adult-use market.

In addition to the present sales tax of 7%, a retail excise tax of 10% will be applied. A further local sales tax of 3% can also be established.

Further Details On H7593

As stated in a bill summary from the Marijuana Policy Project, current medical cannabis retailers, known as compassion centers in Rhode Island, will be eligible to get a hybrid license to begin adult-use sales by paying a $125,000 fee into a social equity fund as of December 1.

Rhode Island approved five more medical marijuana dispensary licenses in October as part of a long-awaited expansion plan to bring the total number of retail shops in the state to nine.

Furthermore, 24 new retail recreational cannabis licenses will be awarded across six geographic regions, with each region receiving at least one social equity license and one worker-owned cooperative license.

To put it simply, 25% of the new retail licenses will be reserved for social equity applicants, such as people who have been disproportionately affected by the drug war. This is another example of the social equity features of this bill which we really commend Rhode Island lawmakers for including.

Social equity and justice are undeniably incredibly important aspects of any and all changes and advancements we hope to see continue in the cannabis industry. This bill bodes very well for the future of cannabis legislation bringing about an inclusive and equitable legal cannabis industry.

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