Rhode Island governor to include recreational marijuana in budget proposal

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Rhode Island may be the next state in New England to make recreational marijuana a reality following Governor Gina Raimondo’s announcement that she will call for legalization in her budget proposal for 2019.

Raimondo spoke with sources earlier in the week and said that her decision to include provisions for legalization is met with reluctance but that it’s the most realistic way forward as more states choose to legalize.

“I have resisted this for the four years I’ve been governor,” Raimondo told the Providence Journal. “Now, however, things have changed, mainly because all of our neighbors are moving forward [with marijuana legalization].”

The full budget proposal is expected to be released on Thursday and press secretary Josh Block confirmed earlier this week that a proposal for legalized cannabis will be included.

“As our neighboring states move forward with legal marijuana, the Governor is mindful of its impact on Rhode Island, from law enforcement to public health,” Block said.

Rhode Island has had a medical marijuana program in place since 2007 but as more states legalize for recreational purposes, Raimondo sees a need for the state to follow suit. Raimondo told sources last month that she would begin considering a legal framework in the coming year.

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“We have a robust medical marijuana program which I would like to expand this year. Then we’re going to take a harder look at legalizing recreational,” said Raimondo in an interview.

Rhode Island would join other northeastern including Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont who have all legalized recreational marijuana within the last two years. Raimondo sees that Rhode Island will be surrounded by cannabis as more states legalize and so it would be best to ensure that Rhode Islanders are getting safe and high quality cannabis.

“We’re not doing this for the revenue,” The governor deputy’s chief of staff Kevin Gallagher told the Providence Journal. “We’re going to be surrounded by [marijuana], and the only way we will be able to control the public health, to make sure we have safe products, control distribution, ensure proper enforcement, is if we take control of our own destiny and establish a framework here that has those significant protections.”

The proposal for legal cannabis that will be included in the 2019 budget proposal would legalize the possession and sale of cannabis that would be taxed, but it will have much stricter laws in place than those of the surrounding states: homegrown cannabis will remain illegal as well as high-potency marijuana, and there will be limits on the THC content in edibles.

If the proposal is approved, Rhode Island could see recreational stores open as early as January of 2020.

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