POLITICS
02/13/2014 11:18 am ET Updated Feb 13, 2014

Rhode Island Lawmakers Introduce Bill To Legalize Marijuana

Rhode Island state Sen. Joshua Miller (D) and state Rep. Edith Ajello (D) introduced the Marijuana Regulation, Control and Taxation Act on Wednesday, a bill that would make Rhode Island the third state -- after Colorado and Washington -- to legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older.

"Marijuana prohibition has been a long-term failure," Miller said in a statement Wednesday. "Forcing marijuana into the underground market ensures authorities have no control of the product. Regulating marijuana would allow the product to be sold safely and responsibly by legitimate businesses in appropriate locations."

The initiative would permit possession of marijuana up to one ounce, in addition to legalizing cultivation of the plant. Adults 21 and older would be allowed to grow no more than two marijuana plants "in an enclosed, locked space," according to the press release. The sale of wholesale marijuana would be subject to an excise tax of up to $50 per ounce in addition to a 10-percent sales tax on retail sales.

"Regulation allows us to create barriers to teen access, such as ID checks and serious penalties for selling to those under 21," Ajello said. "Taxing marijuana sales will generate tens of millions of dollars in much-needed tax revenue for the state."

Colorado’s landmark efforts in launching the first state-licensed pot shops after legalizing recreational marijuana in 2012 resulted in more than $5 million in taxed and regulated sales in just one week.

National trends have followed suit, with recent polling indicating a majority of Americans are in favor of marijuana legalization. In January, President Barack Obama echoed the growing sentiment in an interview with the New Yorker's David Remnick.

"As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life" Obama told Remnick. "I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol."

Rhode Island became the 11th state to legalize medical marijuana in 2006 before decriminalizing up to an ounce of marijuana in 2013. According to a January Project by Public Policy poll, 52 percent of Rhode Islanders support treating marijuana no differently than alcohol.

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