As the likelihood of recreational marijuana legalization in Rhode Island advances, it has become even more critical to ensure that civil liberties and social equity concerns are prioritized and centered. Both the proposed FY 2022 budget and standalone legislation seek to do so, but far from comprehensively. As an organization strongly in support of the legalization of recreational marijuana, we provided commentary which would further ensure important civil liberties protections.
While the Budget article ensured opportunities for minority owned businesses, the legislation failed to address the need for expunging marijuana-related offenses from the criminal records of individuals; was missing other substantive and inclusive social justice provisions; and failed to protect marijuana users from discrimination.
S 568 much more substantively addressed the need for social justice and included a procedure for no-cost expungement for justice-involved individuals with a marijuana charge, limitations on the consideration of criminal record checks for employment, specific funding for social justice and equity initiatives, and protections against discrimination for responsible marijuana users in the workplace and the family. However, we suggested language which would build upon and strengthen these important provisions.
While Article 11 was ultimately removed from the final budget proposal, S 568 A passed the Senate. A separate proposal for the legalization of recreational marijuana, H 6370, was introduced in the House as well.