By Tessa Roy, WPRO News
Senator Joshua Miller, seeking to stave off losing revenue to Massachusetts, has updated and re introduced his bill to legalize and regulate marijuana.
“The general public consistently polls in Rhode Island and elsewhere very much in favor of this, over 60%. I think that legislators haven’t caught up with their constituents yet,” Miller said.
Miller (D-Cranston), who has introduced the legislation seven years in a row and co-chairs a legislative study commission on marijuana legalization, says he made changes to the bill following concerns expressed by the commission. The updated bill would create a tax structure like the one in Massachusetts.
The bill establishes a 10% tax on the marijuana in addition to the state’s 7% sales tax, and up to a 3% optional local tax for a total between 17.75 and 20.75% tax on purchases. Those total taxes would be equal to the total taxes in Massachusetts.
The proceeds from the 10% marijuana tax would be distributed to the state’s general fund and various health and safety initiatives. Expenses of implementation and enforcement would be paid first, then $3 million annually would be distributed to State Police. Other funds would be split with State Police, public education programs, and the Department of Behavioral Health, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals each getting 15% to cover training, testing and enforcing laws against driving under the influence, substance abuse prevention programs, and DUI prevention programs. The remaining 55% would go to the state’s general fund.