The issuance of adult cannabis licenses could be stopped in New York

Rhode Island Capitol TV |

Rhode Island Senator Joshua Miller discussed legalizing adult cannabis on June 22nd.

More than a decade ago, Rhode Island Senator Joshua Miller headed a commission examining the cannabis ban and the effects of what he termed policy failures.

That was in 2010. When Miller finally got a chance in the Senate Tuesday night to propose a law on adult cannabis use, the Upper Chamber debated the law for 15 minutes before passing it 29-9.

Senate Bill 568, sponsored by Miller and nine of his Democratic colleagues, would allow adults 21 and older to own up to 1 ounce of cannabis or 5 grams of concentrate and grow up to six plants for personal use. The measure would also speed up the deletion process for people with cannabis offenses.

“It’s a historic day because it is the first time a bill to legalize and regulate cannabis has reached either of the two legislative chambers in Rhode Island,” Miller said. “We got to this point about 10 years later than I would have liked and it is important that we act swiftly to get a regulatory framework in place.”

Miller pointed out that neighboring Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont signed the adult cannabis law earlier that day. And neighboring Massachusetts opened an adult retail store in 2018.

And with Vermont and New York lawmakers legalizing cannabis in 2018 and 2021, respectively, Rhode Island and New Hampshire are the only two states in New England where the ban remains intact.

“The longer we wait, the more we put the future Rhode Island cannabis retailers at a disadvantage,” Miller said. “The longer we wait, the more Rhode Island customers get used to traveling across the border to a nearby store, and the more they develop relationships with those companies. And with cannabis so readily available, whether on the black market or easily in neighboring states, Rhode Island will have to address all societal ills, but we will lack the regulatory framework and source of income. This legislation is therefore urgently needed. “

According to SB 568, the use of cannabis in public places and unsealed containers in the passenger compartments of a motor vehicle would be prohibited.

The legislation aims to create a five-member cannabis control commission to oversee a competitive and accessible licensing structure that Miller said would prevent monopoly of the new market by restricting business units to one license. The licensing structure would generate tax revenue through a sales tax of 7%, a cannabis excise tax of 10%, and a local sales tax of 3% that would flow back to the communities where the point of sale took place.

In addition, each municipality would be entitled to at least three retail licenses, but each municipality is free to opt out at its discretion. Municipalities can also issue local ordinances to regulate the time, location, and type of cannabis operator, but they cannot impose additional fees or contingencies.

And with regard to social justice, the legislation would create a fund to provide technical support and assistance to qualified persons who are directly or indirectly affected by bans. A third of the licenses would be reserved for individuals from affected communities.

“In drafting this bill, we wanted to ensure that as many Rhode Island residents as possible had the opportunity to participate in this new economy,” Miller said. “That is why we set low entry barriers with accessible staggered license fees.”

Licensing fees for the 11-tier system range from just $ 100 for up to 1,000 square feet of outdoor space, up to $ 5,000 for manufacturing and testing companies, and up to $ 20,000 for the largest growers and retailers.

Although passed by a 76% majority in the Senate, the bill competes with two other legalization measures: Governor Dan McKee tabled a proposal in March that included a three-year initiative to introduce retail licenses; and House Bill 6370 was introduced on May 28 by Democratic MP Scott Slater.

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Rhode Island Capitol TV |

Rhode Island Senator Samuel Bell will discuss legalizing adult cannabis on June 22nd.

With the Senate-approved bill in motion in March, the Upper Chamber had an opportunity to make some really important improvements, Democratic Senator Samuel Bell said on the floor on Tuesday.

“But I think there are a few things the House Bill gets right that we can possibly change,” he said. “I think we should automate the deletion, and I think the tiered structure here is set up so that certain larger growers can potentially dominate the market. It’s something I hope we can tweak. Apart from that, I think it’s really excellent legislation. “

Republican Senator Gordon Rogers, who voted against the bill, said the legislation had two flaws. First, Rogers said the 3% local sales tax that is reimbursed to communities only takes into account pharmacies, not farmers. In turn, cultured churches with no retail trade are left out, he said.

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Rhode Island Capitol TV |

Rhode Island Senator Gordon Rogers discusses adult legalization of cannabis on June 22nd.

Second, Rogers said he was in favor of a centralized distribution facility that would act as an intermediary between growers and pharmacies.

“Let’s say something happens to a mushroom or something; It’s growing, it’s a public health issue, you have one central place to find out where it’s going, ”he said. “When it comes from breeders who shoot down the pharmacies, it’s kind of unpredictable. However, if you have a central sales hub where this can be tracked, [there is] control and test. “

Miller said the bill’s authors considered such a distribution center but chose not to pursue that concept because they were observing retailers in Massachusetts.

“Some of them actually only use maybe a cultivator or two,” Miller said. “So the central distribution would just be another piece of security that would be a burden for both the breeder and security, and the tagging and tracking that you want to do with the marijuana.”

SB 568 is now being submitted to the House of Representatives for consideration, although there is only one week left until the legislature is adjourned on June 30th. Earlier this month, House spokesman Joe Shekarchi told WPRI-TV that the lower chamber would first focus on passing a budget and possibly withdrawing adult cannabis legislation at a special session later this year.

But Tuesday’s Senate approval of SB 568 is just another example of the dynamic behind the nationwide movement to end the ban, said Erik Altieri, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

“The American people are fed up with our failed prohibition policies and finally their elected officials are carrying out the will of their constituents,” he said. “We urge the Rhode Island General Assembly to follow the example of the Senate and swiftly approve this bill.”

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