Speakers at the event included the bill's sponsor, Rep. Edith Ajello (D-Providence); Dr. David Lewis, founder of the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies at Brown University; Professor Andy Horwitz, director of the Criminal Defense Clinic at Roger Williams University School of Law; and Beth Comery, a former Providence police officer.
A bipartisan group of 29 sponsors, including House Minority Leader Rep. Brian Newberry (R-North Smithfield), is supporting H 7506, the Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act. The bill would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow one mature marijuana plant in an enclosed, locked space. It would establish a tightly regulated system of licensed marijuana retail stores, cultivation facilities, and testing facilities, with no more than 10 total retailers in the state. The bill proposes a wholesale excise tax of up to $50 per ounce of flowers and $10 per ounce of leaves applied at the point of transfer from the cultivation facility to a retail store, along with a 10% sales tax. The Department of Business Regulation would be charged with establishing rules regulating security, labeling, health, and safety requirements.
A report released last week by OpenDoors estimates that the legislation would generate between $21.5 and $82 million in tax revenue each year.
Fifty-three percent of Rhode Island voters support changing state law to regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol, according to a Public Policy Polling survey released in January.
Statement from Rep. Edith Ajello, sponsor of H 7506:
Our current marijuana prohibition policies ensure we have no control over the product and criminal enterprises do. It's time for a new approach. Our state has demonstrated that it can implement drug policy reforms that are effective and beneficial to all Rhode Islanders. I'm confident that ending the prohibition of marijuana and replacing it with a system of regulation and control would produce similar results.
Statement from Dr. David Lewis, founder of the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies at Brown University:
There is no question that strict marijuana regulation is essential for the health and safety of our community. However, using the criminal justice system to do this has neither minimized marijuanas use nor reduced its harm. New authentic public health approaches are both necessary and inevitable. House Bill 7506 provides such rigorous regulation and so deserves our serious consideration.
Statement from Robert Capecchi, deputy director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project:
Colorado generated roughly $4 million in new tax revenue in the first two months of regulated adult marijuana sales. Plenty of adults in Rhode Island bought marijuana during that same period of time, but the only ones who collected revenue were cartels and other criminal enterprises. Marijuana is less toxic than alcohol, its less addictive, and its less likely to contribute to violence. There is no reason why it cannot be treated that way.
Statement from Rebecca McGoldrick, executive director of Protect Families First:
Its time we get honest about how our drug policies affect our families. Marijuana prohibition isnt making our childrens lives better. Its making them worse.
Statement from Beth Comery, former Povidence police officer and member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP):
Opponents ask that we 'wait and see' how things play out in Colorado and Washington, but weve already experimented with marijuana prohibition long enough to know that it is a total failure. Reports coming out of Colorado are almost universally positive: fewer pointless arrests for marijuana, new jobs and businesses, and millions of dollars in tax revenue.
Statement from Andy Horwitz, director of the Criminal Defense Clinic at Roger Williams University School of Law:
As a criminal defense lawyer, Ive seen too many cases of people charged with nonviolent marijuana crimes, leading me and many of my colleagues to conclude that marijuana prohibition is a wasteful and harmful policy. I urge legislators to give this well-crafted bill the attention and ultimate vote it deserves.