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Rhode Island’s Ballot Initiative Represents Crucial Moment For Cannabis Legalization

Rhode Island citizens will be greeted by a question that could hold fundamental weight to cannabis legalization nationwide this voting season. That’s right, the country’s smallest state can still have the biggest impact.

“Do you support the legalization of possession and use of marijuana by persons who are at least 21 years of age, subject to regulation and taxation that is similar to the regulation and taxation of tobacco and alcohol?” that question will read.

This is one example of a developing strategy by lawmakers to raise questions about cannabis legalization in their state. Some may call the move a half-measure, as it does not actually put forth marijuana legislation should voters overwhelmingly approve. But Rhode Island state law only permits nonbinding advisory statutory referendums and will force politicians’ hands to really examine cannabis legislation when they reconvene for the 2019 session.

According to Tom Angell of Marijuana Moment, at least eight other states are considering such measures to propose cannabis questions to voters. Just this week, Illinois approved legislation that will include a nonbinding cannabis legalization question on the state’s November ballot.

“Shall the State of Illinois legalize the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, testing, and sale of marijuana and marijuana products for recreational use by adults 21 and older subject to state regulation, taxation and local ordinance?” reads the proposed question.

Rhode Island legalization advocates have claimed these questions just stall lawmakers from ending prohibition this year, and allow nearby Massachusetts to accrue possible tax revenue that could’ve been Rhode Island’s. For her part, RI Gov. Gina Raimondo said she’s “open to” giving voters the opportunity to voice their opinions on the issue through a referendum. She emphasized, however, that lawmakers must weigh the logistics behind implementation ahead of such a movement.

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