By Maureen Meehan

With the stroke of a pen, Rhode Island has joined its two neighboring states and 16 others in legalizing the recreational use of cannabis, becoming the 19th state in the country to end marijuana prohibition.

After months of negotiations between lawmakers, advocates, stakeholders and the governor’s office, and less than 24 hours after lawmakers overwhelmingly passed the legalization bill, Gov. Dan McKee signed the measure, which promises automatic expungement of past marijuana possession convictions and reserves a quarter of new retail store licenses for minority communities disproportionally hurt by the War on Drugs, reported the Providence Journal.

Speaking on the steps of the State House in Providence, McKee said the law was “equitable, controlled and safe” while establishing a regulatory framework that emphasizes public health and safety. “The end result is a win for our state both socially and economically.”

RELATED: DEA Sued By Rhode Island Lab Over ‘Foot Dragging’ On Marijuana Pharmaceutical Licensing

The law calls for retail sales beginning Dec. 1, but it will be a while before most of the shops are open.

This article originally appeared on Benzinga and has been reposted with permission.

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