From Potential to Profits: Reaping the Benefits of Sound Lighting – Cannabis Business Times
On the strength of collaboration between legislative chambers as well as with the state’s governor, Rhode Island is positioned to cross the adult-use cannabis legalization finish line and launch commercial sales this year.
The reform momentum comes after state Sen. Joshua Miller and Rep. Scott Slater—both Democrats—advanced identical bills in their respective chambers, with lawmakers from each body passing the Rhode Island Cannabis Act behind overwhelming majorities on May 24.
The House passed the legislation on a 55-16 vote, while the Senate approved it on a 32-6 vote, sending the bill to Gov. Dan McKee’s desk. The Democratic executive is expected to sign it and make Rhode Island the 19th state to legalize adult-use cannabis.
“The act before us was introduced after months of collaboration between the House and the Senate, as well as numerous stakeholders,” Slater said Tuesday evening on the House floor. “We did this in collaboration with the governor’s office, the courts, the attorney general, the Office of Cannabis Regulation and the Department of Health.”
Slater and Miller first introduced the act in March but then unveiled a key amendment May 17, after considering written and verbal testimonies during the committee hearing process.
The underlying proposal did not change. The legislation still includes provisions to legalize the sale and possession of up to 1 ounce of cannabis by adults 21 and older, with no more than 10 ounces for personal use kept in a primary residence, to allow the home cultivation of up to six plants (three mature), and to regulate a licensed industry. But the amendment offered a new provision to provide automatic expungement of records for those with previous cannabis convictions.
Specifically, those with any prior civil violation, misdemeanor or felony conviction for possession of cannabis that would be decriminalized by the bill would receive expungement free of charge and without a hearing by July 1, 2024. Any person who wishes to receive expungement of his or her records earlier can petition the court to do so under the bill.
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“Social equity was a major focus for us throughout the development of this bill,” Miller said Tuesday on the Senate floor. “We strove to address the past wrongs in a couple of ways, including through automatic expungement and by reserving half of the new licenses for impacted communities. Following testimony and months of discussion with advocates, stakeholders and the judiciary, the bill has been amended to provide for automatic expungement.”
Furthermore, the legislation sets a Dec. 1, 2022, launch date for commercial adult-use sales. The state’s nine compassionate care centers already licensed in the medical cannabis program will have the first go in the adult-use retail market but would need to pay a $125,000 fee—to be deposited in a social equity fund—to become a “hybrid” cannabis retailer.
In addition to those nine retail establishments, the legislation includes 24 new adult-use licenses, which would be distributed equally among six geographic zones. One retail license in each zone would be reserved for a social equity applicant and another in each zone for a workers’ cooperative applicant.
The act also includes provisions for reinvesting tax revenue from cannabis sales into communities that were most harmed by prohibition, as well as including the use of licensing fees and penalties to fund assistance and grants for qualifying social equity applications seeking to enter …….