Rhode Island governor introduces bill to legalize adult-use cannabis sale and consumption

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Cannabis in Rhode Island has been legal for medical purposes since 2006. Now, Gov. Gina Raimondo is pushing to legalize recreational cannabis sales with state-run stores. Included as part of her annual budget bill, Raimondo’s cannabis legalization plan would regulate the plant for adults aged 21 and above.

According to a summary of the 2020 “Adult Use Marijuana Act“, the state would be legally allowed to issue social use licenses; should the Act gain approval from lawmakers. Moreover, Rhode Island’s recreational cannabis bill would implement a system whereby anyone who doesn’t follow the rules regarding home cultivation and smoking in public spaces would be slapped with a fine.

Raimondo’s legal weed initiative is likely a result of building pressure, what with bordering state Massachusetts legalizing adult-use cannabis in 2018 and nearby Connecticut striving to do the same.

Rhode Island’s recreational cannabis bill: An overview of the proposed rules

As per the details of the “Adult Use Marijuana Act”, the State of Rhode Island would oversee the adult-use retail sector. Workplace protections would be included in the Act, with the language stating that a positive drug test result for cannabis metabolites would not be deemed  sufficient evidence of impairment. This means that employees could potentially avoid disciplinary actions for consuming adult-use cannabis in Rhode Island.

Adults in the state will not, however, be able to operate a vehicle while under the influence of cannabis. In addition to this, smoking or vaporizing in a multi-unit housing complex will be forbidden; unless the property owner approves. Home cultivation and smoking in public will also be outlawed.

Revenue earned from legal adult-use cannabis sales in Rhode Island will be distributed among the state (61 percent); state-licensed adult-use store contractors (29 percent); cannabis-friendly municipalities 10 percent. Youth services/public health programs will benefit from revenue allocated to the state.

Rhode Island’s recreational cannabis bill would establish a Community Equity and Reinvestment Council

Should Rhode Island’s adult-use cannabis bill gain approval from lawmakers, an 11-person council would be established. Members of the council would be experts in various segments of the law, such as business incubation, criminal justice, diversity, inclusion and social equity.

The Council would be required to analyze data pertaining to the potentially negative impacts of legal cannabis in Rhode Island. With their findings, the team must develop a set of recommendations to “foster social equity and community reinvestment within the framework of the state’s adult use [cannabis] program including proposed expenditure of funds appropriated therefor.” Administrative duties would be carried out by the Office of Cannabis Regulation. 

Some other provisions included in the “Adult Use Marijuana Act” are as follows:

  • Licenses would be restricted to people who don’t have any previous drug-related convictions
  • Products must not be designed in such a way that they appeal to children
  • Potency on products that contain the psychoactive compound THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) would be capped at 50 percent; not exceeding 5mg THC per edible serving.

It’s important to note that cannabis businesses may be temporarily prohibited by municipalities. This is to be approved by a local voter referendum in November 2021.

For a more comprehensive look at Rhode Island’s recreational cannabis bill, click here.

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