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Law Rhode Island


Well-Known Member
Rhode Island Cannabis Legalization Proponents Push for Vote

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island state legislators hoping to legalize adult-use cannabis say they have enough support to pass a bill if it comes to a vote this spring in the Democrat-controlled General Assembly.

Rep. Scott Slater, a Providence Democrat and legalization proponent, said taking action this year would allow Rhode Island to have regulations and a new source of tax revenue in place before retail cannabis stores open over the border in Massachusetts. He said Rhode Island has already strengthened the way it regulates and taxes medical marijuana plants, so “flipping the switch” to allow recreational use wouldn’t be hard.

“We’ll definitely be able to beat Massachusetts to the punch,” Slater said. “They seem to keep delaying it.” (cont)
Rhode Island governor and others call for delay in legalizing marijuana
They support legislation to create a 15-member study commission to make recommendations to lawmakers by March 1, 2018
Published: Apr 18, 2017, 7:40 am • Updated: about 5 hours agohttp://www.thecannabist.co/2017/04/18/rhode-island-marijuana-legalization-delay/77594/#disqus_thread

By The Associated Press

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Rhode Island’s governor is calling on lawmakers to delay passing legislation that would legalize recreational marijuana use.

The Providence Journal reports Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo’s administration has sent a letter to the House Judiciary Committee saying they instead support legislation to create a 15-member study commission to make recommendations to lawmakers by March 1, 2018.

The Journal says the letter is signed by the heads of the state health department, business regulation department and department of behavioral healthcare, developmental disabilities and hospitals.

Raimondo has previously voiced concerns about edible forms of marijuana that can be marketed to children. Marijuana advocates complain the study commission bill is a delay tactic.

California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada voters approved recreational use of marijuana last year, joining Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska.

Ah...a call for yet another overpaid, underperformaning blue ribbon fucking panel....hmmmm, there must a politician in the area. The same tired knee jerk reaction..."oh, let's form and fund a fucking commission....screw listening to the citizens"

Well, you have heard my advise before....vote early, vote often, and vote these assholes out of office.
Judge: Company discriminated against medical marijuana user

By Associated Press May 23 at 7:51 PM
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A judge has ruled against a Rhode Island textile company accused of discriminating against a woman when she was denied an internship because she uses medical marijuana to treat migraine headaches.

The Superior Court judge’s decision released Tuesday found that the Westerly-based Darlington Fabrics Corp. had violated the state’s Hawkins-Slater Medical Marijuana Act, which prevents discrimination against card-carrying medical marijuana users.

The complaint said Christine Callaghan, who was a graduate student at the University of Rhode Island, negotiated a paid internship with Darlington Fabrics in 2014 but lost it after disclosing she held a medical marijuana card.

The case was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island.

Neither Darlington Fabrics nor its lawyer returned a phone call seeking comment Tuesday.

Hopefully we will see more rulings like this.
More medical marijuana dispensaries could be coming to Rhode Island

Proposed legislation would double the number of compassion centers from three to six

Published: May 30, 2017, 10:22 am • Updated: about 2 hours ago

By The Associated Press

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Some medical marijuana proponents in Rhode Island are seeking to expand the number of dispensaries in the state.

The Providence Journal reports that state law currently allows for up to three dispensaries. A proposal that would double that number has been discussed at hearings held by state House and Senate committees but it’s unclear whether it will be addressed this session.

State Sen. Stephen Archambault, a Smithfield Democrat and supporter of the bill, says people will be able to get medical marijuana from the dispensaries, called compassion centers, “more easily and at a decreased cost” if the bill passes.

Existing dispensaries have argued that more competition could kill their operations. Rhode Island last year enacted reforms aimed at improving oversight of its decade-old medical marijuana system.
Rhode Island governor seeks to expand medical marijuana program


Rhode Island’s governor is making another push to expand the state’s medical marijuana program.

Gov. Gina Raimondo’s $9.4 billion state budget plan for the 2019 fiscal year includes:

  • Establishing 15 more medical marijuana dispensaries.
  • Adding acute pain to the list of MMJ qualifying conditions.
  • Allowing Massachusetts and Connecticut cardholders to buy medical cannabis in Rhode Island.
The governor wants to increase the number of dispensaries from three in order to provide more patient access to MMJ and because she projects a $5.1 million increase in revenue from such a move.

However, the three dispensaries currently operating under state law have resisted the creation of additional MMJ businesses. They argue there’s no demonstrated need for more dispensaries.

The legislature will review the governor’s proposals and present its plan before the 2019 fiscal year begins in July.

The governor has expressed reservations about recreational marijuana, but she has previously floated the idea of expanding Rhode Island’s MMJ program.
This is the same BS that MD licensees are claiming...that increasing competition will put them out of business....but in my view, that's true only if you are NOT competitive in which case...tough.

In MD's MMJ program, there are dispensaries that have opened that have MMJ business in other states and/or have a great deal of experience, understand the product, and understand their customer base and its requirements. Then there are other who, although they did win a license, are completely clueless and their going out of business (if that indeed happens) will be a blessing and allow their license slot to go to somebody who knows which way is up.

Just saying, fuck the protected monopolies (but then, I'm a fan of capitalism).

Medical marijuana: Dispensary offers R.I. $5M to limit competition

Medical marijuana dispensaries say adding outlets would threaten the sustainability of their businesses — which they have spent million of dollars upgrading to meet the state’s changing needs and requirements.

PROVIDENCE — “Gifting” is a common practice in the medical marijuana program, allowing growers to give away their medicine to needy recipients.

But Chris Reilly, a spokesman for the state’s largest medical marijuana dispensary, had something else in mind last week when he told some House lawmakers that the Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center was considering giving Rhode Island something:

Maybe $5 million.

The offer came with a condition. State regulators would have to change their plan to hike the number of state-licensed pot dispensaries from the existing three to 15.

“We’re very sensitive to the state and its challenges,” Reilly told members of the House Finance Committee. “And if there is a way to find the $5 million that you need to plug the budget hole that you need for the coming fiscal year, we’d like to be part of the solution.”

Reilly’s offer seemed to exemplify just how serious a threat the state’s three dispensaries see Gov. Gina Raimondo’s plan to expand and better regulate the booming medical marijuana program.

Regulators say the plan would increase competition among dispensaries, lower prices, offer a wider array of tested marijuana strains and improve access for patients, whose numbers keep growing.

The plan would also generate at least $5 million annually in state revenue.

But dispensary representatives say the expansion would be the first of a one-two punch combination threatening the sustainability of their businesses — which they have spent million of dollars in recent years upgrading to meet the state’s changing needs and requirements.

The second punch is the start of recreational pot sales in Massachusetts in July.

While Rhode Island regulators say they don’t expect to lose much business to Massachusetts — Bay State marijuana will be more expensive to buy and by law will be less potent, they say — the dispensaries are worried.

Massachusetts competition “is a market force that’s going to strain our program considerably,” Reilly told lawmakers, noting that he knew of five proposed marijuana stores for Attleboro alone.

(Attleboro officials told The Journal that so far they have issued required letters of “non-opposition” for only two businesses.)

Seth Bock, the CEO of the Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center, said that expanding from three to 15 dispensaries “would almost ensure that one, maybe two, dispensaries would go out of business.”

“We’ve built an infrastructure around a volume of patients which for us, if eliminated, would mean we couldn’t operate,” Bock said.

Bock said 44 cents of every dollar the Portsmouth dispensary takes in goes toward surcharges and state and federal taxes.

Further, because the federal government considers marijuana an illegal drug, dispensaries can’t file as federal nonprofits or take normal business deductions.

(Many dispensaries around the country, however, get around that prohibition by hiring management firms which can take those tax credits and return savings to principles in the company. Also, because they are not federal nonprofits, dispensaries are not subject to standard federal disclosure requirements. Therefore they are shielded from having to file publicly viewable tax returns.)

In an interview Bock said he had hoped the state would approve home delivery of medical marijuana to help blunt expected competition from Massachusetts recreational sales. But state regulators say the required technology to track those deliveries isn’t ready yet.

Terence Fracassa, a principle with the Summit Medical Compassion Center in Warwick, questioned the need for more dispensaries since the existing three are currently meeting patient need and could further expand their growing facilities if needed.

And he described the difficulty of the last several years of maneuvering in the shifting medical pot landscape: a costly state moratorium on the program after the federal government threatened to prosecute medical marijuana growers; changing limits on how many plants dispensaries could grow; and now another change in suppliers, from home growers who supplied half of all marijuana sold by dispensaries, to state-licensed cultivators.

“We did get into the market, and we’re not crying and we take the good with the bad,” said Fracassa. “But it has been a little bit like a pinball in a pinball machine.”

State regulators differ with the dispensaries over whether the state’s patient need is being met.

In an interview, Norman Birenbaum, the state’s top medical marijuana regulator, said that the 60,000 tagged plants growing in private homegrows — compared with 10,000 plants growing in the three dispensaries — are a true indicator of need.

They exist because those private grows offer a wider variety of marijuana strains, better consistency and sometimes better quality than the dispensaries — all important factors to a patient.

But some of that product feeds into the black market. That’s why Raimondo’s proposal calls for limiting home grows and encouraging patients to use the two dozen newly licensed cultivators whose products eventually will be tested for contaminants and closely controlled.

Regarding the cash offer from Chris Reilly of the Slater dispensary, Birenbaum said, “From a business standpoint I understand the impulse to continue to protect the market share that they have.” But the “proposed reforms are not being offered to fill a gap in the budget. They are not being offered to raise revenue or push the industry in a particular direction. They are being offered to address the very real problems we have in the medical marijuana program.”

The expansion proposal would also offer the three existing dispensaries a new business opportunity, Birenbaum said. They could grow marijuana for their competitors to sell.

New Rhode Island bill would legalize cannabis for adults

A senator in Rhode Island is introducing a bill that would legalize marijuana by following the framework set by neighboring Massachusetts.

Sen. Joshua Miller, a Democrat, introduced the bill Wednesday. The proposal would create a system to tax and regulate marijuana in Rhode Island that mirrors the system in Massachusetts.

Voters there approved legalizing marijuana in November 2016. Recreational sales will become legal in July.

Miller’s bill would establish a 10-percent tax on marijuana sales in addition to the state’s sales tax. It would also allow for towns and cities to implement an additional tax up to three percent.

Miller says Rhode Island will miss out on revenue when Rhode Islanders cross into Massachusetts to buy marijuana.

Bills to legalize marijuana in Rhode Island have stalled in previous legislative sessions.
Oh, Mom's going to spank me for language but I hardly have words to describe my contempt for these rapacious, greedy, motherfucking politicians. This is medical program we are talking about. Where do these "I've never made an honest buck in my life" politicians think the additional $245,000.00 per license is going to come from. Profit? FUCK NO!

Its going to come out of the hide of the patients who will pay for it via increased prices for their purchases. Purchases of medicine NOT covered by any insurance or other program.

Do these shitheads think they live on a remote island. They can price themselves out of the market and their patients will just go to MA. It aint' that far of a drive.

New Rhode Island budget raises MMJ companies’ annual renewal fees from $5k to $250k

Rhode Island medical cannabis retailers will likely see the cost of their annual renewal fees increase fifty-fold — from $5,000 to $250,000 — after lawmakers approved a new state budget, according to a Providence Journal report. Gov. Gina Raimondo, a Democrat, is expected to sign the budget this week.

Last year, Gov. Raimondo called for major expansions to the state’s medical cannabis industry. She proposed adding 12 new dispensaries to the program and raising retailer license renewals from $5,000 to $25,000. These expansions were opposed by the states’ existing three dispensaries, who argued that adding dispensaries to the state’s model would cut into the patient bases of existing retailers.

The House Finance Committee also disagreed and ultimately shot down the governor’s plan, though lawmakers adopted and dramatically expanded the increase in license renewal fees.

“The proposal would have created far too many centers. I don’t know what the right number is, but the whole system needs a comprehensive review before taking any further action. I don’t want to make a decision that may have to be pulled back.” — Rhode Island House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, via Providence Journal

While Rhode Island‘s dispensaries now won’t have to deal with new competition, the spike in license renewal fees is sure to be felt by existing operators.

Meanwhile, Magdalena Andreozzi of the Rhode Island Cannabis Association supported the idea of adding dispensaries and argued that the expansions would have generated more than 400 jobs and roughly $1.5 million in taxes.

“(The cultivators) have purchased the licenses, paid the necessary fees, gotten zoning variances, paid for their leases and the expense of building out [a grow location], and now there is no market for them to sell their product. It’s going to be a real rude awakening for some of these new licensees.” — Magdalena Andreozzi, member of the Rhode Island Cannabis Association
"But for Raimondo’s administration, those restrictions were common-sense policies that would ensure the public health and safety of Rhode Islanders"

As soon as you hear a politician saying "common-sense policies" run like hell because you are about to be fucked on one end and have it jammed down your throat on the other.

God, I hate politicians.

Many expected Rhode Island to legalize recreational marijuana this year. What happened?

Marijuana advocates had high hopes for Rhode Island this year — optimistic that the state would follow in the footsteps of its northern neighbor and legalize marijuana for all adults. But a different narrative played out in New England’s smallest state when lawmakers left out recreational marijuana from the budget unveiled last week, and decided only to increase the number of medical marijuana businesses.

Governor Gina Raimondo’s proposed budget last winter included a plan to legalize recreational marijuana, which would have allowed the possession, use, and sale of recreational marijuana. The plan also included some limits, like prohibiting home growing.

Turned off by those restrictions, the marijuana community has been conflicted, supportive of the governor’s intentions but discouraged that the proposal would not give them the same freedoms most other states give, including Massachusetts.

By the time the Legislature’s draft budget was released last week, recreational marijuana legalization was nowhere to be found. In its place was the addition of six “compassion centers,” the name for the state’s medical marijuana dispensaries.

The budget is set for a full House vote on Friday, to be taken up by the Senate next week.

“When the governor’s proposal came out, she came out with a proposal to legalize cannabis, but her proposal also had a lot of changes to the medical program,” said Providence state Representative Scott Slater, a longtime proponent of marijuana legalization. “It wasn’t that legalization wasn’t warmly received. It was [Raimondo’s] proposal to change a lot of the dynamics that are already going on.”

Slater is also the son of former state Representative Thomas Slater, whose name is attached to the 2006 law that legalized medical marijuana in Rhode Island. One of the state’s three medical marijuana dispensaries is also named after him.

Raimondo’s proposal would have prohibited recreational consumers from growing any of their own marijuana plants at home, and created requirements for medical patients who want to grow their own. Under current law, patients can grow their own plants, as long as they purchase tracking tags from the state. Raimondo’s proposal would have limited home growing to patients who can prove to the state they have a specific need to grow marijuana on their own.

“They should really just leave the medical program alone if it’s medical, not tax the medicine, and legalize cannabis,” Slater said.

That restriction alone was discouraging for legislators who would otherwise support marijuana legalization, he added.

“The majority of people probably heard from their constituents, and most of the people who were in the [medical] program . . . hated the governor’s proposal because what it was going to do is it was going to restrict their ability to grow as patients,” he said. “If you’re currently getting what you need or growing what you need . . . why would you want that to change?”

But for Raimondo’s administration, those restrictions were common-sense policies that would ensure the public health and safety of Rhode Islanders, said Norman Birenbaum, who oversees the medical marijuana program and helped craft the administration’s proposal for recreational marijuana.

In addition to home grow restrictions, the administration’s proposal included a prohibition on products with more than 50 percent THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana; changes to the way employers can test employees for marijuana; and frameworks for law enforcement agencies to test for marijuana impairment on the road.

“We looked at other states that had done this, and we wanted to make sure we weren’t walking down the same path and making the same mistakes that other states had made,” Birenbaum said.

By and large, marijuana advocates in Rhode Island saw the Raimondo administration’s restrictions, particularly on home growing and potency, as detrimental to legalization efforts, said Jared Moffat, the Rhode Island political director for the Marijuana Policy Project.

A mix of backlash from some — and blatant apathy from others — left Raimondo’s proposal on an island of its own over the last several months with little support from advocates or impassioned negotiating from pro-marijuana legislators.

House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello said there just wasn’t an appetite among lawmakers for legalizing recreational marijuana this year.

Moffat wasn’t entirely surprised. He said the lack of excitement among constituents likely “led to the perception among leadership in the House, in particular, that this was not super popular.”

“While we were sort of generally supportive, there were provisions in it that a lot of the activist community and usual supporters of legalization were really opposed to,” Moffat said. “Those things made it very difficult for me to do my job, which is rally the troops behind this, and I think that led to mixed reactions to the governor’s proposal.”

And though marijuana advocates blame the unpopularity of Raimondo’s proposal for the failure of this year’s legalization efforts, Birenbaum said he doesn’t see the governor changing her position on those issues in coming years, especially home growing.

“The administration’s view on this is we’re not trying to do this at any and all costs,” he said.

“Rhode Island has one of the highest per capita uses of marijuana in the country and has for about a decade already. . . . We need to have resources for public health and safety. We want to make sure that we’re offering safer versions of these products for people.”
Sort of an interesting take from a politician who single-handedly killed adult use legalization last year by her insistence on tacking on detrimental (to patients, at least) changes to the R.I. medical program.

See the article posted above this one for details.

Rhode Island Governor Will Pursue Legal Marijuana In 2020

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) says she’ll make another attempt to legalize marijuana in the Ocean State next year.

In an appearance on WPRI-TV’s Newsmakers program, the governor said she recently discussed the cannabis issue during a lunch with Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (D), and she left feeling encouraged to pursue the policy change.

Baker “basically said, ‘Look, you’re going to have to do it, so you probably should do it and do it right.’ And I think he’s probably right,” Raimondo said in the interview that aired last weekend. “Connecticut I think is pretty close to doing it, so it’s likely.”

“Last year we made a step forward with more medical [cannabis] and I think the next logical step is adult use,” she said.

Raimondo’s meeting with Baker and Lamont came just weeks after a separate vaping and cannabis-focused summit featuring the Connecticut governor and those from New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, at which those top state executives agreed to a set of principles to shape regional marijuana legalization plans.

Raimondo included a legalization proposal in her 2019 budget submission to the legislature, but it was not adopted by lawmakers.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and other governors from the Northeast have said that they want to approach legalization in a regionally coordinated manner in order to bolster public safety and prevent people from purchasing cannabis from neighboring states because of differences in tax rates or product availability, for example.

Senate leaders in New Jersey said on Monday that they were giving up on legalizing through the legislature for the time being, conceding that they don’t have the votes to pass a bill that appeases all stakeholders. Instead, they filed a bill that would place a referendum on legalization before voters in 2020.

Also in the new interview, Raimondo discussed a lawsuit she filed against legislative leaders over a statute they passed that effectively gives them veto power over the state’s cannabis regulations.
A lottery....no proposal pre-screening...just a straight up lottery so that guy with two bankruptcies, wire fraud conviction, and SEC charges against him can enter?


This is like pin the tail on the donkey...they going to put up all of the applications and throw a dart at them to determine the winner?


Lottery Will Determine Rhode Island’s 6 New Medical Cannabis Licenses

Rhode Island’s medical marijuana regulators have unveiled how they plan to issue licenses for six new dispensaries in the state and new rules that would not allow the new operations to grow their own cannabis at first.

The regulations released Thursday say the new licenses will be awarded through a random lottery.

The proposed regulations also would not allow the new dispensaries to grow until they are open and a market study is completed.

The state budget approved in June provides for the opening of six new dispensaries in different parts of the state. The state’s three existing dispensaries are in Providence, Warwick and Portsmouth.

The Department of Business Regulation will take public comment on the proposed rules until Dec. 21 and expects to finalize the rules early next year.
New rule proposed for out-of-state medical marijuana users

Rhode Island agencies have proposed a new regulation on the sale of medical marijuana that would require out-of-state patients to present identification from their state as proof of residency.

Last year, state lawmakers began allowing dispensaries to sell to out-of-state residents, and 6,500 people who were Rhode Island residents changed their patient card addresses to California, according to the Providence Journal.

Many patients are looking to California because the patient-card rules there are more relaxed there than they are in Rhode Island, the paper reported.
“(The California card) was easier to afford. ... I make no money and have a lot of medical bills to pay,” user Alexa Coffey said.
Critics of the proposal for out-of-state patients to provide ID say Rhode Island's rules are already very complicated. They worry this could push patients to purchase off the black market or in Massachusetts.

“We need to stop making people jump through hoops," Greenleaf Compassion Center retail manager Jeff Pietrefesa said.
The Department of Business Regulation will accept public comment through Dec. 21.
"doubled the price of a license to $500,000."

This almost went in the Atrocious sub-forum.....sigh

Where Does Rhode Island Stand on Marijuana?

In the early evening of June 22, the Rhode Island House of Representatives passed the state’s $9.9 billion budget for fiscal 2020. Among the high-profile provisions in the 488-page spending plan was Article 15, which significantly reshaped the state’s medical marijuana industry. After six years of three dispensaries, the General Assembly expanded the marketplace to nine, and doubled the price of a license to $500,000.

In his budgetary post-mortem, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello expressed his satisfaction with the final product: “There is something in there for almost every segment of society. I would guess that everyone in this chamber [got] something they liked, but not everything they liked.”

For his part, Mattiello got something he liked very much: nine words added to Article 15’s rulemaking section, which mandated that any new cannabis or hemp rules promulgated by the Department of Business Regulations “shall be subject to approval by the General Assembly prior to enactment.”

In the hullaballoo over the licensing fee hike and the jockeying for the six new licenses, this power shift from the governor to the speaker of the House went largely unnoticed. Providence Senator Josh Miller, one of two point people in the General Assembly on cannabis legislation, says he found out about it either just before or just after the budget passed, but generally “it was not well-known. I was surprised, and I’m not easily surprised at this point.”

illustration by brendan totten
Four months later, Governor Gina Raimondo sued Mattiello and Senate President Dominic Ruggiero in state Superior Court, alleging that the General Assembly’s attempt to take this regulatory authority away from the executive branch violated the state constitution’s separation of powers.

“It’s basic checks and balances,” Raimondo said at the time, “to make sure that we move away from the old way of doing business. Let’s have this be a place of transparency, equal footing and no more special deals for special people.”

Mattiello immediately back-pedaled. He promised a legislative fix and took umbrage at the “unnecessary expense by the governor of state taxpayers’ dollars and judicial resources,” according to a written statement by Mattiello’s spokesman Larry Berman. The legislative veto, Berman wrote, was originally enacted “to ensure that the regulatory process would be fair, open and transparent to everyone.”

Indeed, nothing says transparency like quietly slipping in major changes to important legislation at the eleventh hour. And nothing says equal footing like demanding half-a-million-dollar licenses — currently the highest in the nation — to join a tiny state-controlled monopoly.

Rachel Gillette, a Colorado lawyer who practices cannabis law, says Rhode Island’s expensive, hyper-restrictive “regulation by fear” is bad for the state economy and keeps the illegal market alive.

“Colorado is a pretty good model that a lot of states could benefit from,” she says. “We have reasonable licensing fees and thousands of licensed businesses. It means we have a lot of competition in the marketplace, and that is very American and it serves the consumer well. We also have a local option in which each jurisdiction can determine, based on local needs and desires, where, how many licenses, and what type of license is appropriate for that community.”

In the last six years, the number of card-holding medical marijuana patients in Rhode Island has more than tripled from 4,849 in 2013 to 17,891 in 2019. That does not take into account out-of-state cardholders, who, in June 2018, were permitted under a new interstate reciprocity law to buy cannabis at Rhode Island dispensaries. And, for the last three years, the dispensaries shattered sales records. In fiscal 2019, they sold $56 million worth of marijuana, a 46.6 percent increase over fiscal 2018, when they did $38.2 million in business — up more than a third from fiscal 2017’s $28.2 million.

With numbers like these, rather than moving away from the old way of doing business, many critics see the state galloping toward a regulatory structure that concentrates its nascent cannabis industry into a few well-connected hands, destroys small businesses, stifles economic development and consumer choice and encourages corruption.
In August, the FBI issued a warning in its weekly broadcast about the “emerging threat of public corruption in the expanding cannabis industry,” mentioning “some states” charging as much as $500,000 for a license. As if to prove the point, one month later, the agency charged Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia with accepting $600,000 in bribes from cannabis operators hoping to locate their businesses in his city. Correia pleaded not guilty.

In Rhode Island, a who’s who of retired CEOs, lobbyists and real estate developers are lined up to grab what John Marion, executive director of Common Cause Rhode Island, calls “a Willy Wonka golden ticket” to become the next marijuana millionaire. Representative Charlene Lima of Cranston is already suspicious.
“People seem to be spending a lot of money buying buildings….” she says. “Why would you expend so much capital when you don’t even know if you are going to be one of the six? Any competent businessman will tell you: To spend that kind of money, you have to have some reassurances that you are going to be successful. It doesn’t pass the smell test.”

As the General Assembly returns to Smith Hill this month, Rhode Island’s marijuana policy appears to be less settled than June’s sleight-of-hand suggests. In November, the Department of Business Regulations issued its proposed regulations: The six new licenses would be awarded via lottery and, a win for the forty-five local cannabis cultivators, all six would be barred from growing their own crops for at least a year while regulators determine industry demand. Both Mattiello and Ruggerio promised thorough reviews of the proposed regulations — Mattiello told the Providence Journal the new rules “may not be consistent with the intent of the law passed by the General Assembly and signed by the governor” — and Newport Representative Lauren Carson says legislators have a lot more work to do.

“We should take a hard look — we are creating an industry and that is not something governments normally do and, as such, we need to be sure that we are tapping into the right ideas and right resources so we can be of assistance to the business community.”

And as the state tries to herd all cannabis consumers to the medical dispensaries, the effort to legalize marijuana for adult use remains another unresolved issue.
A year ago, Raimondo reluctantly included a cannabis legalization scheme so the state would not fall behind its neighbors, like Massachusetts, that have already done so. In October, she joined the governors of New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut to adopt a regional approach to cannabis and vaping legislation and policies and settle on some “core principles” regarding market regulation, public health and safety and enforcement and best practices. And in November, Raimondo said she was “exploring the possibility of once again including the legalization of adult-use marijuana.”

Complete legalization has languished since 2010, when the first recreational marijuana regulation bill was heard in committee.

But the Marijuana Policy Project, the advocacy organization behind the local lobbying effort, Regulate RI, has pulled back, because “Every year, we run up against the brick wall of the speaker and the senate president,” says former Regulate RI director Jared Moffat. “In Rhode Island, there’s not a willingness to putting any staff or resources into looking at this issue. Until there’s a change in leadership or a change in attitude, our chances are not very good.”

The biggest losers are the vanguards of legalization — the medical marijuana patients, who fought for the right to come out of the black market’s shadows and buy their medicine without criminal consequences.

“There’s something wrong with the attitude in this state,” says Ellen Smith, a patient and long-time activist. “They’ve forgotten why this whole thing started.”
They complain of constantly shifting regulations and taxes on home growers, who do so to keep down costs, maintain their privacy or ensure a steady supply of a strain that is most effective in treating their particular condition. Each year, they gather themselves to fight off bills that would eliminate home growing altogether.

“A lot of people out there who are hurting can’t afford to be going to the dispensaries. The prices are out of control,” says Phil Diamond, who treats his glaucoma with cannabis and grows for himself and four other medical marijuana patients. “Compassion centers. There’s nothing compassionate about them. It’s all about the money.”

Rhode Island taking applications for six more medical cannabis dispensaries

Rhode Island medical cannabis regulators started accepting applications Friday for six potentially lucrative dispensary licenses, a move that will triple the number of retail outlets for the $60 million-plus market.

With only three dispensaries now licensed, the state ranks at the top of the U.S. in terms of patients per dispensary, according to the recently released Marijuana Business Factbook – despite Rhode Island having only roughly 18,000 patients.

That situation prompted regulators to announce in March they would issue additional licenses for six MMJ dispensaries.

But the new licensees, unlike the three existing vertically integrated dispensaries, will not be allowed to grow their own marijuana, according to the Providence Journal.

The six new dispensaries, called compassion centers, will have to procure their product from the 56 stand-alone cultivators in the state as of the second quarter.

That situation could change once the dispensaries are operational, however, because “the regulations include the possibility of seeking a variance to grow,” the Journal reported.

The licenses will be issued through a lottery process, with one permit issued for each of six geographic zones.

State regulators plan to take their time, however.

The application deadline isn’t until Dec. 15 because regulators want to give time for applicants to select locations and for local governments to hold public hearings, according to the Journal.

Winning licensees aren’t expected to start selling medical marijuana until late 2021.

The licensing plan spurred a power battle between Gov. Gina Raimondo and legislative leaders who objected to the state’s plan for retail-only dispensaries. Raimondo has won – for now.

And the stand-alone cultivators argued that additional vertically integrated dispensaries could drive them out of business.

Rhode Island Lawmakers Schedule Marijuana Legalization Hearing For This Week As Leadership Warms To Reform

As top lawmakers in Rhode Island increasingly discuss the prospects of legalizing marijuana in 2021, a key Senate committee is now set to take up the issue during a hearing on Wednesday.

The Senate Finance Committee announced that it will convene virtually to get testimony on aspects of a budget proposal from the governor, focusing “particularly” on a provision to legalize cannabis for adult use through a state-run model as well as two other unrelated policies.

But while advocates are encouraged by the development, the hearing isn’t expected to translate into legislative action this year and will primarily inform the legislature’s approach in the next session. The more likely possibility is that lawmakers will work to enact the reform in 2021, after new leadership that has signaled interest in the issue is installed.

Senate Finance Committee to meet virtually on Wednesday evening to hear budget articles on marijuana, insurance https://t.co/ES3YGQ9sqf
— Rhode Island Senate (@RISenate) November 16, 2020

Interest in pursuing legalization seems amplified under incoming leaders, with several top legislators saying in recent days that they will be addressing the policy in the new year.

Rep. Joseph Shekarchi (D), who was voted to serve as House speaker, said last week that the chamber is “very close” to having majority support for the policy change and that he’s “absolutely” open to the idea.

But on the Gov. Gina Raimondo’s (D) proposal to establish a state-run cannabis system, which will be the subject of Wednesday’s hearing, he’s not so sure.

“I looked at that very briefly a year ago when the budget came in, but then hit COVID so it really kind of fell by the wayside,” Shekarchi said. “I know that some people think it should be left to the current cultivators, the current dispensaries. The governor feels maybe it should be state-run like they do in New Hampshire with the liquor stores. I think maybe we can look at a private model.”

“Do every mom-and-pop where people sell cigarettes, should they have the right to sell marijuana as well too?” he asked. “I don’t know the answers to any of those questions, but I know that we need to have hearings on it. We need to get input.”

Under Raimondo’s plan, the state would manage adult-use marijuana sales, and those products would be distributed through a contractor.

“This legalization takes the form of a state-control model, similar to how liquor sales are regulated in New Hampshire and over a dozen states,” the budget, which was released in January, states. “This regulatory approach will allow the state to control distribution, prevent youth consumption, and protect public health.”

Revenue from cannabis sales will be distributed between the state (61 percent), the contractor (29 percent) and municipalities (10 percent). The governor estimated that Rhode Island will take in $21.8 million in fiscal year 2020, $21.1 million in 2021 and $39.6 million in 2022, with revenue expected to grow by three percent each subsequent year.

Adults 21 and older would be able to purchase up to one ounce of marijuana per visit and possess up to five ounces total. Home cultivation of recreational marijuana would be prohibited.

The Office of Cannabis Regulation (OCR) would be responsible for regulating the market, as well as the state’s medical cannabis and industrial hemp programs.

Incoming House Majority Leader Christopher Blazejewski (D), meanwhile, said legalization is “certainly something we’ll take a look at,” noting that he cosponsored a bill to legalize cannabis in the past, and that “certainly the issue has come a long way in that time.”

Sen. Michael McCaffrey (D), who has been reelected to serve as Senate majority leader, called on the state to legalize marijuana earlier this month.

“The time has come to legalize adult cannabis use,” he said. “We have studied this issue extensively, and we can incorporate the practices we’ve learned from other states.”

Advocates say it’s time for the Ocean State to get on board, especially since a growing number of other states are enacting legalization.

“With 68 percent support nationwide and successful voter initiatives passed in conservative states like South Dakota and Montana, there’s no good reason why Rhode Island shouldn’t be able to pass legalization in 2021,” Jared Moffat, campaign coordinator for the Marijuana Policy Project, told Marijuana Moment.

“It’s smart policy and smart politics for leaders in the state. With the economic pain Rhode Island is experiencing, it would be legislative malfeasance to turn down tens of millions of dollars in additional revenue that could support vital programs,” he said. “We are hopeful this could finally be the year.”

The legalization victories on Election Day, particularly in New Jersey, appear to have galvanized these regional conversations about pursuing the reform.

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) said that New Jersey’s vote intensifies the need to enact the policy change in his own state. Doing so, he said, could cut down on unnecessary travel—and resulting spread of coronavirus—from his constituents traveling to nearby legal markets to buy marijuana.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), meanwhile, said recently that the time is “ripe” to legalize cannabis in his own state in the coming year after he put the issue in his budget proposals for the past two years without getting it over the finish line.
"in light of the budget deficit in the state, Rhode Island is talking about legalization as well."

Of course they are....I mean, why be responsible for your prolific spending if you can just find another avenue to tax your citizens.

Look, I'm all for MJ legalization but I do not make the mistake of thinking these scum bag politicians are actually doing anything virtuous or right. They are doing it to bail their asses out and give them mo' money to spend buying votes with give-away initiative.

Just the way I see it.

Rhode Island Considers Legalization to Solve Budget Crisis

Will Rhode Island be the next state to legalize cannabis?

Many liberal, New England states have turned to recreational or medical cannabis to bring in some extra revenue, and now, in light of the budget deficit in the state, Rhode Island is talking about legalization as well.

Currently, the state is projecting a possible $114.4 million deficit in the state’s economy, and analysts are getting worried. In response to that, a Senate Finance Committee in the state is considering Democrat Gina Raimondo’s proposal to allow the sale of cannabis legally within state borders.

Under Raimondo’s plan, dispensaries in the state would be run privately, like in many other states who have adopted a legal model. Rhode Island would in turn control the industry and take 61 percent of net revenue for state needs. Buyers could get up to an ounce of cannabis a day, and THC potency could not exceed 50 percent for any product.

“We are confident that this new proposal deserves a fresh look,” state Director of Administration Brett Smiley told reporters. “We are also confident this is the way this country is going.”

Support and Criticism​

If this plan passes, the new cannabis stores could be up and running as soon as March of next year. Legal cannabis could make Rhode Island up to $22 million if sales totaled $70 million during the first fiscal year. It is anticipated that the market could reach up to 176,388 consumers.

“Frankly, adult marijuana usage is already present in Rhode Island,” State Police Supt. James Manni wrote regarding the idea of legalization. “A resident can simply travel over state lines and legally purchase marijuana.”

He also claims that the plan “provides … regulation and much needed resources from the public safety perspective.”

However, some groups are still claiming to openly oppose recreational cannabis in the state.

“Any time a single worker is under the influence of a substance that impairs his or her mental clarity or physical capabilities, everyone around them is at risk,” said a statement from the Rhode Island Manufacturers Association. Any impairment of employees can also affect product quality.”

Other groups didn’t come out on either side of the proposal, but simply had questions.

“What tools are available for police officers to detect that an individual is driving under the influence of marijuana?” asked the Senate Fiscal Office. “How will the State ensure prices remain competitive with the black market?”

“Seeing as the marijuana proposal is unlikely to pass, we effectively have a proposed budget that is out of balance,” Senate President Dominick Ruggerio said.

Echoed House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello added, “I am very concerned about her proposal to generate revenue from the sale of recreational marijuana when she was advised this would not be an acceptable policy to the General Assembly.”

Many feel that there is a chance for the measure to pass, as the Senate has many progressive and liberal members at the moment, and because of the success of cannabis in legal states. If it becomes a reality, it would have a major impact on the Rhode Island economy.

As Rhode Island Moves To Legalize Marijuana In 2021, Senate Leaders Back Private Sales Model

With Rhode Island’s governor and legislative leaders all expressing interest in legalizing marijuana next year, one big remaining sticking point is where cannabis products would be sold: through private retailers as is the case in every current legal state or under a first-of-its-kind state-run model proposed earlier this year the governor.

Senate President Dominick Ruggerio (D) said in an interview on Monday with The Providence Journal that he is taking the first steps to formulate a legalization plan by tasking Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey (D) and Sen. Joshua Miller (D) with working out the details for a marijuana bill for the 2021 legislative session, which begins next month.

McCaffrey told the paper he favors a model of private retailers rather than the state-run plan that Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) wants.

The pair’s backing of cannabis reform already marks a major shift from just a year ago. In December 2019, Ruggerio said legalization would be difficult to enforce and would “hurt young people,” while McCaffrey expressed concerns about how to drug test drivers and how employers would deal handle the change.

“Obviously we have had another year to review the issue,” McCaffrey said in Monday’s interview. “We are getting a lot of sins from legalizing of marijuana in Massachusetts coming into Rhode Island.”

McCaffrey first publicly backed legalizing cannabis last month in a speech during a Democratic caucus event at which his party colleagues renominated him to serve as majority leader.

“The time has come to legalize adult cannabis use,” he said at the time. “Our policy of prohibition no longer makes sense with Massachusetts moving towards a robust legalization system. We can create jobs, capture lost tax revenue and fund important social programs going forward.”

Miller, the other senator who Ruggerio tapped to lead the legalization charge in the new session alongside McCaffrey, has long been the lead sponsor of cannabis reform legislation.

On the House side, incoming Speaker Joseph Shekarchi (D) said last month that he’s “absolutely” open to the idea of cannabis legalization and that his chamber is “very close” to having majority support for the change.

“The governor feels maybe it should be state-run like they do in New Hampshire with the liquor stores,” Shekarchi said. “I think maybe we can look at a private model.”

At a hearing last month, lawmakers began formal consideration of Raimondo’s plan to legalize marijuana and allow only state-run sales, which she originally introduced in a budget proposal last January, prior to the pandemic. The governor has said in the past that the public model “will allow the state to control distribution, prevent youth consumption, and protect public health.”

It would also be a first in the United States. Every other state to legalize retail cannabis has licensed private stores to sell the drug.

“Yes, I support the state-run model,” Raimondo told the Journal in a separate interview last week, “because from all the work we have done, it is the most controlled way to do it, arguably the safest and the way to maximize state revenue.”

Under Raimondo’s latest proposal, from January, adults 21 and older would be able to purchase up to an ounce of cannabis at a time and possess up to five ounces total. Unlike most other legal cannabis states, home cultivation would be prohibited, meaning the state-run stores would be the only source of legal marijuana.

The governor’s office estimated the model would bring the state more than $20 million in its first year and more as the market matures.

As for legalization in general, the governor said, “it is only a matter of time.” Raimondo first included a legalization proposal in an earlier 2019 budget request, though that proposal did not include the state-run provision that’s in her most recent one.

Raimondo’s endorsement of marijuana legalization—and her plan for how to do it—came months before that of most top lawmakers in the state, but her support for the policy change is relatively recent. Only a year before first proposing legalization, the governor had been reluctant to take a clear stance on the issue.

After an election last month where U.S. voters passed every state-level drug reform measure put before them, including in New Jersey, where more than two-thirds of voters approved marijuana legalization, other Rhode Island officials are experiencing a similar shift.

“I remember many years ago we would have trouble finding people cosponsoring it,” incoming House Majority Leader Christopher Blazejewski (D) said last month. “Now we have the Senate leader and a Senate president seemingly fully endorsing it, so it’s an issue that’s really come a long way.”

Rhode Island’s neighbor to the north, Massachusetts, legalized marijuana through a 2016 voter initiative. Lawmakers in the state’s only other next-door neighbor, Connecticut, are set to consider legalization next year. A top lawmaker there said last month he intend to put a constitutional amendment to voters in 2022 if colleagues reject a legalization bill in the coming session. He too pointed to Massachusetts as a reason for reconsidering the issue, noting that legal access to marijuana products for Connecticut residents was just a short drive away.

“Folks literally take something called a car,” incoming House Speaker Matt Ritter (D) said at a press conference, “and they drive in their car and they buy it.”

Rhode Island Receives 45 Applications For 6 Medical Marijuana Dispensary Licenses

There are six openings for new medical marijuana businesses in Rhode Island. 45 companies are competing for them.

Businesses seeking to open medical marijuana dispensaries in Rhode Island have submitted 45 applications for only six licenses, according to officials from the state Department of Business Regulation. More than two dozen companies submitted applications, many of them for more than one of the coveted licenses for compassion centers, as medical marijuana dispensaries are officially referred to in Rhode Island.

Medical marijuana was legalized in Rhode Island in 2006, but currently the entire state is only served by three licensed dispensaries, located in the cities of Providence, Warwick, and Portsmouth. Under a state law passed last year, six more compassion centers will be licensed, one in each of six geographic zones defined by the legislation. The zones were included in the law to ensure that access to medical marijuana is available to patients throughout the state.

In all, 28 businesses have submitted a total of 45 applications, at a cost of $10,000 per application. Ten companies have submitted applications for more than one zone, although each entity will only be allowed to receive one license, even if they are selected more than once in a lottery that will be held to award the licenses. Applicants that are awarded the dispensary licenses will not be permitted to grow their own marijuana unless they are also already a licensed cultivator.

Currently, the existing three compassion centers cultivate cannabis for their operations. Their production is supplemented by an additional 63 cultivators, which are only permitted to sell their crop to licensed dispensaries. Spencer Blier, the operator of a licensed cultivation facility in Warwick, has applied for a dispensary license in two of the six zones.

“There was [sic] a ton of cultivators and only three stores, so upping that from three to nine is definitely going to benefit all the cultivators in Rhode Island,” said Blier.

Lottery For Licenses Expected Next Year​

The lottery to award the licenses has not yet been scheduled, but is expected to occur early in 2021. The lottery system was implemented by the administration of Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo in an effort to avoid any appearance of favoritism or impropriety in the awarding of the licenses.

“I don’t want any special deals for special people, I don’t want any insider deals, I don’t want any legislative meddling, I don’t want politicians making these decisions, myself included,” Raimondo said in an interview with local media last year. “You see the lobbyists, you see the people here in the building all the time … it’s too tempting.”

Blier said that while he understands the reasons behind the lottery, he would have preferred a merit-based system or one that gave preference to local companies over operators from out of state.

“In really trying to make sure there’s no back-door deals going down, they also handicapped local Rhode Island companies,” Blier said.

Before the lottery is held, state regulators will review each application to ensure that applicants have met all requirements, which include submitting detailed financial information and proof that a property that complies with all zoning regulations for a compassion center has been secured. Once selected, each licensee will be required to pay a $500,000 annual licensing fee.

Marijuana Legalization Framed As Inevitability At Rhode Island Senate Joint Hearing

A pair of Rhode Island Senate committees on Thursday held a joint hearing on two marijuana legalization proposals—including one proposed by the governor—as well as several bills to reform the state’s existing medical cannabis program.

The Senate Judiciary and Finance Committees heard testimony from administration officials on Gov. Dan McKee’s (D) budget measure as well as legislative leaders sponsoring the competing bill. While the panels did not immediately vote on either proposal, members generally discussed legalization as an inevitability in the state, especially with neighboring states enacting the reform, That said, there were a number of questions raised about issues such as impaired driving and licensing rules.

“I think now is the time and, hopefully, we’re able to work with the administration and all the parties involved to come up with a piece of legislation that will pass this year,” Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey (D) said in his opening statement.

That’s been a theme since the proposals were introduced: lawmakers might have some differing opinions on what the state’s legal marijuana market should look like, but they’re willing to make compromises to reach a deal in a timely fashion as a growing number of states in the region and nationally also pursue moves to end cannabis prohibition.

The governor’s measure calls for 25 marijuana retailers to be licensed each year for the first three years of implementation. Those would be awarded on a lottery basis, but five would be specifically given to minority-owned businesses, a category that also includes firms run by women. Additional licenses would be issued in the future based on demand.

“We feel strongly that that awarding these licenses by way of a lottery is really the best way to ensure fairness and transparency and accountability,” Jonathan Womer, director of the state Office of Management and Budget, testified.

Sales would begin in April 2022 under the governor’s proposal.

Cannabis sales would be taxed at 17 percent, which includes the state’s seven percent sales tax and a special excise tax of 10 percent. An administration official said last month that a wholesale tax would also be applied and they estimate it would amount to three percent. The governor also included a call to create a “weight-based excise tax on marijuana cultivation.”

That’s similar to the tax plan put forward by McCaffrey and Health & Human Services Committee Chairman Joshua Miller (D), though their measure calls for concrete 20 percent tax that includes the 10 percent special tax, seven percent sales tax and a three percent tax for jurisdictions that allow cannabis firms to operate in their area.

“We know there’s going to be a lot of input from different organizations and different individuals—and we hope over the next couple of months that we’re able to come up with a final piece of legislation,” Miller said.

He also echoed McCaffrey’s point, stating that enacting legalization this year is a priority for the Senate and administration.

According to a fiscal analysis of the governor’s plan, the state stands to generate $1.7 million in marijuana tax revenue in the 2022 fiscal year, rising to $16.9 million in 2023.

Sixty percent of tax revenue would go to the state general fund, 25 percent would cover administrative costs—as well as “public health and public safety costs associated with adult-use marijuana”—and the remaining 15 percent would go to local governments. However, for the first year of implementation, 70 percent of revenue would fund the administrative and regulatory costs.

Unlike the lawmakers’ proposed legislation, McKee’s plan would not create a new independent commission to regulate the market. Instead, the state’s existing Department of Business Regulation (DBR) Office of Cannabis Regulation would hold that responsibility.

Both plans allow adults 21 and older to purchase and possess up to one ounce of marijuana. However, only the lawmakers’ bill provides a home grow option, with the governor’s stipulating a series of fines and penalties for personal cultivation of any number of plants.

In terms of social equity, the governor’s proposal would establish a “Cannabis Reinvestment Task Force,” tasked with studying and making recommendations on the most effective way to allocate tax revenue to support programs “in the specific areas of job training, access to capital for small businesses, affordable housing, health equity and community development.”

The competing Senate bill would similarly create an equity fund from license and application fees to provide “technical assistance and grants” to promote industry participation from “disproportionately impacted areas.” It does not contain provisions giving licensing priority to equity applicants, however.

While the Senate plan includes provisions for people to expunge prior cannabis convictions, McKee’s proposal is silent on the issue. The governor said last month, however, that he supports efforts to clear marijuana records and backs separate legislation to tackle the issue.

Both plans are notably different than the proposal that former Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) had included in her budget last year. Prior to leaving office to join the Biden administration as commerce secretary, she called for legalization through a state-run model.

McKee gave initial insights into his perspective on the reform in January, saying that “it’s time that [legalization] happens” and that he’s “more leaning towards an entrepreneurial strategy there to let that roll that way.”

House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi (D), meanwhile, has said he’s “absolutely” open to the idea of cannabis legalization and also leans toward privatization.

Late last year, the Senate Finance Committee began preliminary consideration of legalization in preparation for the 2021 session, with lawmakers generally accepting the reform as an inevitability. “I certainly do think we’ll act on the issue, whether it’s more private or more state,” Sen. Ryan Pearson (D), who now serves as the panel’s chairman, said at the time.

The growing momentum in Rhode Island also comes as lawmakers in neighboring Connecticut are also moving toward legalizing marijuana this year. Gov. Ned Lamont (D) included a cannabis legalization plan in his budget request last month, though advocates have been critical of several provisions, particularly as they concern social equity and home cultivation.

There was also talk during Thursday’s hearing about New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signing a bill to legalize marijuana for adult use the prior day.

For both Rhode Island measures, members of the committee dedicated some time to talk about their concerns about giving law enforcement the resources to fund training for officers to detect impaired driving from THC, ensuring that people from communities most impacted by prohibition are able to participate in the legal market and appropriating tax dollars for drug prevention education.

Meanwhile, the Senate approved a bill last month that would allow safe consumption sites where people could use illicit drugs under medical supervision and receive resources to enter treatment. Harm reduction advocates say this would prevent overdose deaths and help de-stigmatize substance misuse.

The Senate Judiciary Committee also held a hearing this week on legislation that would end criminal penalties for possessing small amounts of drugs and replace them with a $100 fine.

New Rhode Island Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed With Weeks Before End Of Session

Rhode Island lawmakers introduced a new bill to legalize marijuana on Friday, with just weeks left to go in the 2021 legislative session.

Two sources familiar with the situation told Marijuana Moment that because time is running out, lawmakers are likely to reconvene in September to tackle the legislation, in addition to separate legalization proposals that have been filed by the governor and Senate leaders.

The new House bill from Rep. Scott Slater (D) and several cosponsors includes similar policies to tax and regulate cannabis for adult use, but in some respects it seems to contain a greater focus on addressing social equity than the other measures—even if it doesn’t contain everything advocates want.

“I feel like it will be good and something that can pass which tries to address many of the concerns of interested parties,” Slater told Marijuana Moment.

According to a summary, the goals of the measure are to gradually establish a recreational marijuana market, build consensus from “a majority of stakeholders” and prevent the market from being oversaturated as has happened in the state’s existing medical cannabis program.

“We need to learn from past mistakes in the [medical] marijuana program. In 2016, licensed cultivators were allowed to enter the market with no analysis of what our market could support,” Slater said. “Because there was no limit on applicants, dozens of people spent enormous sums of money to enter a market that could never support them. Cultivators are still struggling today from that decision that set them up to fail.”

Under the new bill, adults 21 and older could purchase and possess up to one ounce of marijuana in public. The could also grow up to six cannabis plants at home, with a maximum of 12 plants allowed in residences where more than one adult lives.

Unlike the governor’s measure and the one filed by Senate leaders, Slater’s proposal calls for automatic expungements for people with prior cannabis convictions.

The Department of Business Regulation, which would oversee the marijuana program, could initially license 15 recreational retailers, five of which would be reserved for social equity applicants. Another license would be issued to a worker-owned cooperative.

The state’s three current medical cannabis dispensaries, as well as six additional operators set to be awarded in a planned lottery this summer, would get the remaining adult-use licenses.

“We’re encouraged to see that Rep. Scott Slater is taking social and economic justice seriously in his proposal for recreational cannabis in Rhode Island,” Tyler Brown, an activist with the group Reclaim RI, told Marijuana Moment. He said the bill’s provisions on expungements and licensing “will go a long way in helping individuals and communities that have been directly impacted by the long war on drugs.”

Brown added, however, that “there is still room for improvement.”

“Specifically, we would like to see the number of additional social equity and worker cooperative licenses be equal to existing and approved medical retail licenses, raising the proposed number from six to nine, at least three of which should be coops, as well as strong union protections for employees of cannabis businesses through labor peace agreements.”

Under Slater’s legislation as introduced, the definition of who constitutes an equity applicant would be left completely up to regulators to decide. Additional licenses could be issued in 2025 based on market factors.

In addition to the state’s general sales tax, cannabis sales would get an added 8 percent state excise tax and a local excise tax of 5 percent. Revenue generated from those taxes would go to the state’s general fund.

A new social equity assistance fund—supported by marijuana licensing and penalty fees—would be created to support restorative justice, jail diversion and cannabis industry workforce development, among other services. But the money would be subject to appropriation—a point of concern for advocates who feel those dollars should be explicitly earmarked and not put at risk of being redirected by lawmakers.

Individual municipalities would be allowed to ban cannabis businesses from operating in their area under the bill.

To address concerns about oversaturation of the market that have been expressed by existing growers in the state’s current medical cannabis program, no additional cultivation licenses could be issued until 2024.

“I do not want to repeat that same mistake of the past by opening this marketplace way beyond what it can support,” Slater said. “I want to create a stable marketplace and then analyze where we are at over time and make better decisions into the future.”

Questions remain about whether lawmakers will have time to take up the new bill and other legalization proposals as they continue to focus on the annual budget. There is also uncertainty about whether legalization will earn the support of top legislators like House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi (D), who has been relatively quiet on the issue.

Shekarchi said recently that he views legalization as “inevitable,” but he told Politico that there are “many pressing matters before us” and he’s not sure if the chamber will have time to consider the cannabis reform measure.

Gov. Daniel McKee’s (D) legalization plan, which was unveiled in March as part of his budget proposal, would also allow commercial cannabis sales to adults 21 and older. It was considered before a House panel last month but was not acted on.

Meanwhile, Senate leaders introduced their own legalization bill days before the governor’s announcement.

On the Senate side, both measures were heard in a joint committee hearing in early Aprilbut they were not voted on, and they’ve remained in a holding pattern since.

Both the governor and the leaders’ legalization plans are notably different than the proposal that former Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) had included in her budget last year. Prior to leaving office to join the Biden administration as commerce secretary, she called for legalization through a state-run model.

McKee gave initial insights into his perspective on the reform in January, saying that “it’s time that [legalization] happens” and that he’s “more leaning towards an entrepreneurial strategy there to let that roll that way.”

Shekarchi, meanwhile, has said he’s “absolutely” open to the idea of cannabis legalization and also leans toward privatization.

Late last year, the Senate Finance Committee began preliminary consideration of legalization in preparation for the 2021 session, with lawmakers generally accepting the reform as an inevitability. “I certainly do think we’ll act on the issue, whether it’s more private or more state,” Sen. Ryan Pearson (D), who now serves as the panel’s chairman, said at the time.

Meanwhile, the Rhode Island Senate approved a bill in March that would allow safe consumption sites where people could use illicit drugs under medical supervision and receive resources to enter treatment. Harm reduction advocates say this would prevent overdose deaths and help de-stigmatize substance misuse.

The Senate Judiciary Committee also held a hearing in March on legislation that would end criminal penalties for possessing small amounts of drugs and replace them with a $100 fine.

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