Lawmakers revise bill to legalize recreational marijuana

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island lawmakers unveiled changes Tuesday to a bill to legalize and regulate recreational marijuana, revisions that aim to ensure the legislation passes the state’s General Assembly.

The amended bill was released Tuesday in advance of committee votes scheduled for Wednesday. Both the House and Senate are expected to vote next week.

The bill now provides for the automatic expungement of any prior conviction for possession of cannabis that would be decriminalized by the legislation, without requiring a person to file a request, pay a fee or have a hearing. The expungements would occur by July 1, 2024, with an expedited process offered for anyone who wants to have their record expunged sooner. In the original bill, an expungement had to be requested.

The start date for recreational sales was pushed from Oct. 1 to Dec. 1. The amended bill would eliminate current fees charged to patients and caregivers for registration in the state’s medical marijuana program.

Lawmakers also changed how people would be appointed to the commission that would oversee the industry, to address concerns raised by the governor about separation of powers.

“The amended bill is a collaborative effort to address concerns about protecting medical use, ensuring fair governance and recognizing that we cannot make this transition without taking action to make whole the communities and individuals who have been punished for decades under prohibition,” said Democratic Sen. Joshua Miller, who is leading the legalization effort in the Senate, in a statement.

The bill proposes legalizing the sale and possession of up to 1 ounce of cannabis for adults, ages 21 and older, with no more than 10 ounces for personal use kept at a person’s home. It would also allow residents to grow a small amount at home.

The amended bill keeps the proposed 10% state cannabis excise tax, which would be in addition to the 7% sales tax and 3% local tax for the municipality where the sale takes place. The number of cannabis retailers that would be allowed in Rhode Island remains the same as the original proposal, at 33.

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