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Gov. Raimondo Includes Marijuana Legalization in State Budget Plan

Medical Cannabis

Governor Raimondo’s 2020 Rhode Island budget proposal includes recreational marijuana legalization. She did comment that she was reluctant to do so, but believes it is time for the state to move forward. Neighboring states continue to legalize, so the pressure is on the tiny state to do the same.

The bill doesn’t come without expected pushback, NORML notes. Some of the expected issues include potentially restricting potency and no more caregiver or medical marijuana home cultivation. If a patient can’t prove that they are in a financial hardship in order to cultivate their own medicine, they’d have to go to the recreational side of the industry. There would be no recreational home growing permitted.

Raimondo said, “We’re not an island, in fact. Like it or not, we’re going to be incurring public safety and public health expenses because it’s legal in Massachusetts…And I think it is time for us to put together our own regulatory and taxing framework.”

Regarding restrictions on potency, products would not be allowed to have more than 50% THC – which when it comes to marijuana flower, won’t be an issue. Concentrates, however, are typically well above 50% THC.

Norman Bierenbaum of the Department of Business Regulation said, “The proposal does allow for DBR to approve a concentrate which is above 50% THC to allow for pre-filled vape cartridges or vape pens which are capable of delivering vapor in a consistent manner.”

The proposal is a bit conflicting. Edibles would be restricted to having no more than 5 mg THC per portion. This is aimed at protecting kids who might accidentally ingest an edible.

The proposed taxes might also be overwhelming and could deter residents to visit other states. Raimondo is proposing excise taxes on cultivators by weight plus retail excise taxes of 10% and sales tax. This could bring the tax rate up over 20%. On top of these huge taxes, CBD products made from hemp would be taxed at an excessive wholesale tax of 80%.

While the state is trying to legalize recreational marijuana – this approach might fail. The number of restrictions would still leave Rhode Islanders traveling to neighboring states to purchase their preferred products.