Lawmakers continue push to legalize marijuana in RI

(File photo)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Both the Rhode Island House and Senate are set to consider bills this week that would lift a ban on marijuana and start taxing it.

If the state were to legalize marijuana, it would join Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, D.C. as the only places in the country where a person can smoke recreationally.

The 47-page bill outlines how Rhode Island would tax and regulate the drug. The state has already approved the use of marijuana for medical purposes and the new proposal would open it up to anyone over the age of 21.

“If you’re going to capitalize on the revenue potential of the bill, you should be first in the Northeast,” said Sen. Joshua Miller, D-Cranston, who’s sponsoring the bill in his chamber.

Miller submitted the legislation last week and the House version is expected to be introduced this week.

“We have an illicit market right now for marijuana, which causes a lot of public safety problems,” Regulate Rhode Island Director Jared Moffat said Tuesday. “It would be much better to bring marijuana above ground in a regulated system so that we can tax it, hold those businesses accountable, and they can work with communities rather than be a nuisance for communities.”

Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare said he’s against the legalization of marijuana because he believes it would encourage teenagers to smoke and it would add difficulties with detecting impaired driving.

Also on Tuesday, more than 50 protesters gathered outside the statehouse to speak out against a tax on medical marijuana proposed in Gov. Gina Raimondo’s latest budget.

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