Two lawmakers said on Tuesday they want to make Rhode Island the ninth U.S. state to legalize recreational marijuana and the first to do so by way of legislature instead of a ballot initiative.
Democrats State Senator Joshua Miller and state Representative Scott Slater want to stop Rhode Island dwellers from merely purchasing the drug in nearby Massachusetts, which ratified recreational use in a November ballot.
In a statement, Miller said, “Our constituents think it is time for lawmakers to pass this legislation, and we should listen to them. If we fail to pass the bill this year, we will lose significant ground to Massachusetts.”
Democrats control both chambers of the state legislature. Further, Governor Gina Raimondo, also a Democrat, has said she would be amenable to the idea of legalization.
The plan, which has not yet been officially tendered in the legislature, would permit adults aged 21 and above to use the drug for recreational purposes and levy a 23 percent tax on the drug.
Last year, a similar effort in Vermont fell short and previous attempts to legalize the drug in Rhode Island also were unsuccessful.
Lawmakers in Maine and Massachusetts, the only other northeastern state to legalize the drug, have pushed to defer the sale of the drug in their states.
Late last month, Massachusetts lawmakers delayed until July 2018 and Maine legislators were planning similar moves to delay the selling of the drug.
Majority of Americans in support of legalization
60 percent of Americans now favor the legalization of recreational use of marijuana, an October poll by Gallup showed. Even more support the notion of legalizing marijuana for medical use, a move that 28 states have taken.
Under federal law, the drug remains illegal and U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, who takes office on Jan. 20, has shown mixed signals about his opinions on it.