Campaign: Marijuana Justice

In early 2021, Reclaim RI launched a Marijuana Justice campaign, joining the push to legalize recreational cannabis in Rhode Island. Working with a coalition of other community organizations—including the Formerly Incarcerated Union, UFCW Local 328, the Marijuana Policy Project, and others—we fought to ensure that our state’s cannabis legislation would put racial and economic justice at its center.

When Rhode Island legalized marijuana in 2022, we won nearly all the provisions we had fought for. We had advocated for a bill that would begin to repair the harms that the war on drugs has caused to poor and working-class communities of color, and would provide individuals directly impacted by marijuana criminalization with opportunities to participate in and benefit from this new industry. We also demanded a cannabis industry built to serve the needs of Rhode Islanders rather than the interests of out-of-state capital. In a first-in-the-nation move, we demanded licenses for worker-owned cannabis cooperatives to ensure that a significant share of the marijuana industry in our state would be owned by workers rather than by “Big Weed.” The final bill, which has been called the most progressive marijuana legalization law in the country, included:

  • Automatic expungement of prior cannabis-related offenses from criminal records
  • Social equity provisions that provide licenses, access to capital, and business training to directly impacted people and communities 
  • Labor protections for all cannabis workers that makes entering a labor peace agreement with a union a mandatory condition for getting and maintaining a license
  • Six retail licenses reserved exclusively for worker-owned cooperatives

Now that the Rhode Island Cannabis Act has officially become law, we are focusing our efforts on supporting the formation of worker cooperatives and ensuring their success. Together, we are working to empower working class Rhode Islanders and Black and brown communities to build wealth and take ownership over an industry that is dominated by white men and global corporations, to create a weed industry that works for all the people of Rhode Island.