Yesterday was a big day for little Rhode Island. Governor Dan McKee signed legislation to legalize recreational cannabis in the Ocean State, making it the 19th state to end prohibition, and joining its neighbors Connecticut and Massachusetts.
The new law comes just a day after Rhode Island lawmakers overwhelmingly passed recreational cannabis legislation. The Senate passed the bill 32-6, and the House approved it with a 55-16 vote.
Anyone 21 and older can possess up to an ounce of cannabis and store up to ten ounces in their home. Residents may immediately begin cultivation of up to three plants and may keep three dried plants on hand. Though subject to change, the current law also permits cannabis smoking anywhere cigarette smoking is permitted–so designated smoking areas are a safe zone for anyone who wants to light up.
Prior civil violations, misdemeanors, or felony convictions for marijuana possession decriminalized by this new law will be eligible for expungement. According to the Rhode Island court systems, that’s about 27,000 simple possession charges that can be expunged, dating back to the ‘70s.
When will Rhode Island cannabis sales begin?
If the timeline stays on track, Rhode Islanders can expect retail to open December 1st, 2022. Existing Rhode Island compassion centers will be permitted to sell adult-use on that date upon payment of a $125,000 fee.
A three-member commission responsible for regulation and licensing will be appointed by Governor McKee. Once the state’s cannabis control commission releases its final regulations, an additional 24 retail licenses may be issued. In this case, 25% would be reserved for social equity applicants, and another 25% set aside for workers’ cooperatives.
A two-year moratorium on cultivation licenses will commence once final regulations are released. Existing medical cultivators will not be affected by the moratorium, and will be able to cultivate cannabis in a hybrid format for both adult-use and medical, starting August 1, 2022.
The new recreational cannabis industry will be taxed at 20%. This number is made up of a new 10% cannabis tax, a new 3% tax by communities where cannabis is sold, and the current 7% sales tax.
One of the lead sponsors of the law, Senator Joshua Miller, has been pushing for legalization for a decade. “It has been a long road, but I couldn’t be happier with the result,” said Miller after the bill was signed into law.