Health & Wellness Substance Abuse

Rhode Island State Reps Propose Marijuana Legalization Measure

Two months after the historical passage of marijuana legalization in Washington and Colorado, more states are now considering similar measures in the hope of creating a regulated system that would lower marijuana-related arrests and increase tax revenues. The most recent state to express interest in legalizing marijuana for recreational use is Rhode Island.

Under the bill sponsored by Representatives Edith Ajello, Brian Newberry, David Bennett, Peter Martin and Larry Valencia, adults who use, obtain, purchase, transport or possess up to one ounce or less of marijuana would not be subject to state criminal penalties. The same goes for people who want to grow up to three mature marijuana plants in an enclosed, locked space. Moreover, the Department of Business Regulation would regulate the drug’s security, labeling, health and safety requirements, and rules requiring advertising of marijuana, GoLocalProv reports.

The group of representatives also cited a published report in the American Journal of Public Health that said seven decades of arresting marijuana users has “failed to prevent marijuana use.”

“It is time for Rhode Island to put the failed policy of marijuana prohibition behind us and adopt a more sensible approach just as our nation did with alcohol 80 years ago,” said Ajello. “By keeping marijuana sales in the underground market, we are ensuring they will be uncontrolled and that those selling it are not asking for proof of age. Regulating marijuana like alcohol will take marijuana sales off the street and put them in the hands of legitimate businesses that would face real disincentives for selling to minors. These new businesses will also create jobs and generate much-needed new tax revenue.”

Like earlier proposals in other states, the Rhode Island marijuana legalization bill received strong support from marijuana advocates, such as the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). Mason Tavert, director of communications for MPP, described the legislation as “a smarter, more responsible approach to marijuana.” For Senator Donna Nesselbush, who plans on introducing a similar bill in the Senate, taxing and regulating marijuana would create a revenue that could be potentially used “for treatment and education about the consequences of drug use and the promise of healthful living.”

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