A legislative commission is exploring how much revenue could be generated by legalizing and taxing marijuana sales:
The group intends to study issues surrounding the state’s position on marijuana, including money the state might make if it legalized it and enacted a $35 “sin tax” for purchases of an ounce or more.
Other topics to be explored are the effects and costs of Rhode Island’s prohibition of the drug, except to sick people; whether adult use has increased since it was banned in 1918; whether its sales are financing drug cartels and fomenting violence; and its current availability to young people. The group will also look at how states and countries that have decriminalized the drug have fared.
One of the first subjects the panel will examine is Massachusetts’ experience since voters there overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure in November 2008 that decriminalized possessing small amounts of marijuana. People caught with less than an ounce face a $100 civil fine, but not criminal charges.
The group will gauge the effectiveness of that state’s policy and its impact on law enforcement and prison resources, said Sen. Joshua Miller, D-Cranston, one of five sponsors of the bill that created the commission.
The commission is set to submit its findings in a report by January 31, 2010.