On March 1, Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell (District 5, PVD) introduced a bill into the House Finance Committee: H5795, The Rhode Island Cannabis Equity Act. The act creates a cannabis equity program, with the state providing financial and technical access into the (hopefully soon to be legal) cannabis industry. Funds will be disbursed on a municipal level and will have oversight by a board appointed by General Assembly leadership.
“The bill is a response to the governor’s budget,” says Ranglin-Vassell. “I haven’t seen anything that says it’s going to be fair to communities that have been harmed [by cannabis prohibition].” She’d like to see tax money from cannabis revenues go into divergent programs, such as putting them toward ailing schools in urban areas.
Toward this fairness goal, the bill includes an expungement section. Any individual applying for a loan who has a prior conviction for a cannabis offense that is no longer illegal can have their record expunged. Essentially, felony or misdemeanor possession convictions would be wiped. Ranglin-Vassell wants to ensure that a prior criminal record for breaking laws that unfairly targeted certain minority populations cannot be used as an excuse to bar people from entry into a newly created legal market.
Ranglin-Vassell has been hosting meetings about cannabis legislation in the community. She describes them more as strategy sessions, training people on how to advocate both for legalization laws and communities harmed by prohibition. The next one is on April 22 at 6pm at the United Way of Rhode Island.