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Rhode Island Becomes the 19th State to Legalize Cannabis

Rhode Island Becomes the 19th State to Legalize Cannabis

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On May 25, Rhode Island became the 19th state to legalize the recreational use of cannabis. Democratic Governor Dan McKee signed a bill into law that immediately lets adults 21 and older possess as much as an ounce of weed in public and ten ounces at home. It will now be legal for citizens to cultivate as many as six plants within their residence, with a limit of three mature plants.

The new law will automatically result in the review and expungement of past cannabis-related criminal records required to be vacated by August 1, 2024, with state-licensed retail sales of cannabis starting December 1. Rhode Island currently has three medical dispensaries, as medical cannabis was legalized in the state in 2006. Those dispensaries will now be allowed to sell to the general public.

The law signed by the governor has social equity provisions mandating reinvestment of cannabis-generated tax revenue into communities most impacted by cannabis prohibition and programs designed to assist social equity applicants who wish to be involved in the recreational cannabis industry.

In Rhode Island, public consumption of cannabis has immediately become allowed wherever tobacco smoking is legal. However, under the act, local governments can ban the smoking or vaping of cannabis in public places through referendums although the cities of Providence, Warwick, and Portsmouth, where medical cannabis is already legally available, will be exempt from such bans.

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Licenses for state-legal retail stores in Rhode Island will be limited to 33, or roughly one store for every 32,000 citizens.

Polling indicates that a majority of Americans support the federal legalization of cannabis. Prohibitionists cannot point to societal problems generated from cannabis sales in states where legal recreational stores currently operate. Some activists decry that “some people are making their life savings doing the same thing others are serving life sentences for” and call for the release of the tens of thousands of Americans serving time in jails and prisons on cannabis offenses.

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