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Rhode Island Considers Legalization to Solve Budget Crisis



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.


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