Rhode Island is now the 19th state to have legalized cannabis after Governor McKee signed a bill to end prohibition.
On May 25th, Governor Dan McKee signed the Rhode Island Cannabis Act. This effectively legalizes and regulates cannabis in Rhode Island, making it the 19th state to do so. Medical cannabis has been legal in the state since 2006, but this newest act includes provisions such as automatic expungement of past cannabis convictions.
In an interview discussing the move, Governor McKee said, “The bill I signed today into law ensures that legalization is equitable, controlled and safe. Those were three things that were very important to all of us when we were negotiating this final agreement as Rhode Island begins this new chapter.”
While it will be several months before adult-use retail sales launch, certain provisions have already gone into effect. Learn more about what the Rhode Island Cannabis Act includes and what it means for state residents.
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How Does the Rhode Island Cannabis Act Affect State Residents?
While it took months of negotiations between various groups (lawmakers, stakeholders, advocates, and the governor’s office), revised legislation passed through committee, was approved on the floor on Tuesday, May 24th, and then was quickly signed by the governor the very next day. So, what does this mean for state residents?
Adults who are 21 and older may:
- Possess or purchase up to one ounce of cannabis
- Possess up to ten ounces of cannabis in their home
- Possess up to five grams of cannabis concentrate (this does not include the weight of any ingredients combined with concentrate)
- Transfer up to one ounce of cannabis to another adult
- Cultivate up to three mature cannabis plants in their home (plus three immature plants)
- Once adult-use sales launch, they will be subject to the state’s seven percent sales tax. In addition, they will also be subject to a 10 percent excise tax and a local three percent tax for municipalities that allow cannabis businesses to operate.
- Most fees for medical cannabis patients (including registration and renewal fees for patient cards in addition to plant tag fees for patients who cultivate at home) will be eliminated.
- Possessing more than one ounce (up to two ounces) for adults 18 and older will be decriminalized. People will face a civil penalty without the threat of jail time.
Licensing Provisions in the Rhode Island Cannabis Act
For the first two years, only thirty-three cannabis retailers can be licensed for adult-use sales. Twenty-four of those licenses can be new standalone adult-use retailers as long as they acquire the correct license and pay an annual license fee.
The other nine retailers will need to acquire a hybrid license and pay a $125,000 fee in order to be approved for both medical and recreational sales. Sales from hybrid retail establishments may begin as soon as December 2022.
These will be divided up equally among six geographic zones in Rhode Island. In each of these zones, one retail license must go to a social equity applicant and another to a business organized as a worker-owned cooperative. While no single entity will be allowed to possess more than one business license, individuals can invest in multiple companies.
The legislation also states that additional licenses may be granted if the commission recommends to the General Assembly that they’re appropriate for cannabis-related businesses. This includes, but is not limited to, social consumption sites, cannabis delivery services, etc.
Expungements and Social Equity in the Rhode Island Cannabis Act
The money collected from cannabis licensing fees will be used to support the “Social Equity Assistance Fund.” This fund is to be used exclusively for:
- Grants for “approved social equity applicants to pay for ordinary and necessary expenses to establish and/or operate a cannabis establishment.”
- “To support the waiver or reduction of application and licensing fees…for social equity applicants.”
- “To implement and administer programming for restorative justice, jail diversion, drug rehabilitation and education workforce development for jobs related to cannabis cultivation, transportation, distribution and sales
A measure that was of particular importance to Governor McKee was automatic expungements of past cannabis convictions. The legislation establishes a much-needed process for individuals to expunge prior misdemeanor or felony convictions for cannabis possession by July 1st of 2024.
Those who petition the court for relief, however, may have their cases expedited. “The presiding justice may provide for an expedited procedure for expungement of a prior misdemeanor or felony conviction for possession only of a marijuana offense that has been decriminalized subsequent to the date of conviction.”
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