Rhode Island Gov. Daniel McKee is joining a rising number of governors that are introducing cannabis legalization through their budgets.
This comes just two days after Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey and Senator Joshua Miller introduced the Cannabis Authorization, Regulation and Taxation Act, or CART Act, to legalize cannabis use and sales for adults 21 and older. The bill would allow adults to purchase and possess one ounce of cannabis and to grow 12 plants (6 flowering) at home, which, as Miller recently told Cannabis Wire, is modeled after Massachusetts.
Former Gov. Gina Raimondo, who left her post to join President Joe Biden’s administration, previously tried to legalize cannabis by budget, too, and her proposal included state government-run shops.
Early details on the governor’s plan were released Thursday afternoon, followed by publication of the full FY 2022 budget, which includes adult use cannabis legislation.
McKee’s budget plan is centered on five principles: a “tightly-regulated” cannabis industry that is privately run; a tax structure that is “competitive” with neighboring states that have already legalized; maintaining local control; an “emphasis” on a public health focused rollout; and that equity be “incorporated into all elements of the approach.”
Post-legalization, Rhode Island’s industry is expected to be relatively small. Under the governor’s plan, the Office of Cannabis Regulation (OCR) would approve just 25 retail licenses for the first three years, and five of those would be earmarked for equity applicants.
The Office will operate under the Department of Business Regulation, like the medical cannabis program. Localities will be able to opt out of allowing cannabis businesses, via referendum. And the governor’s proposal does not allow for home grows.
A newly-created Cannabis Reinvestment Task Force would issue recommendations on the “long-term investment of cannabis revenues in the specific areas of job training, access to capital for small businesses, affordable housing, health equity, and community development.”
The bill also directs $1.1 million toward “health equity zones;” $1.0 million to treatment and prevention; and $900,000 to state and local law enforcement.
Lawmakers are debating legalization in nearby New York and Connecticut, and in both of those states, the governors’ proposals don’t allow for home grows, while lawmakers have introduced bills to do so. And New Jersey’s adult use cannabis market will soon go live, sans home grows, after lawmakers passed implementation legislation last month.
“Over the years,” Senator Josh Miller, who also chairs the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services, said in a statement on Tuesday, “we have all learned from the experiences in other states,” adding that prohibition “is next to impossible with the availability [of] legal cannabis just over the state border.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect publication of the full budget legislation.