Late yesterday, the Rhode Island Senate adopted the House's budget bill, sending the legislation to Gov. Raimondo for her approval. Although the governor's January budget proposal included a plan to legalize marijuana for adults, the state legislature removed it and instead increased the number of licenses for medical marijuana compassion centers from three to nine. The budget also raises the annual licensing fees for these businesses to $500,000 — by far the highest in the nation.
Though the outcome is not what we hoped for, we were successful in avoiding an even worse result. After MPP and our allies called legislators' attention to it, the House amended out a budget provision that would have allowed the Department of Business Regulation to establish "criteria for eligibility or a demonstration of need" for patients and caregivers who wish to grow medical marijuana. Given the department's stated opposition to home cultivation, many patients could have lost their ability to produce their own medicine had this provision not been removed.
Looking ahead, advocates for sensible marijuana policy reform in Rhode Island are regrouping and planning for next year. With the legislative session winding down and no elections coming up, the next six months are an excellent time to contact your state senator and representative and talk with them about the need for sensible cannabis policy reform.
Though it is disappointing when progress does not come quickly, our movement is winning, and our numbers are growing. We must continue speaking out and advocating for reform. I appreciate you for sticking with us and continuing this fight.
Stay tuned for more updates soon.
We’re just over halfway through this year’s legislative session, and the fate of legalization remains uncertain. A clear majority of Rhode Islanders are ready to end the failed policy of prohibition, but lawmakers may not act unless they hear from their constituents. Help us move the issue forward and contact your state legislators.
Rhode Island will only dig itself into a deeper hole if the General Assembly fails to pass a legalization law this year. Multiple states around us are moving forward with marijuana policy reform legislation, and if Rhode Island becomes an island of prohibition, the state will lose out on an opportunity to gain a foothold in the fastest growing economic sector in the country.
Gov. Raimondo’s proposal to legalize and regulate marijuana could be improved in several ways, and as we advocate for passage of a legalization law this year, we must also urge the General Assembly to adopt amendments around medical marijuana patient access, competition and fairness within the market, and provisions to address the historical injustices of marijuana prohibition.
We need supporters of sensible marijuana policy to take action. Without a broad push for legalization, Rhode Island will continue spinning its wheels while Massachusetts, Connecticut, and other New England states move forward. We need progress this year, and you can help make it happen by sending a message to your state legislators right now.
On Sunday, Gov. Raimondo announced that she will be including a plan to legalize and regulate marijuana for adult use in her upcoming budget. This endorsement represents an exciting breakthrough in our years-long effort to end marijuana prohibition in Rhode Island.
Detailed legislation will be available soon. For now, what we know is that the governor aims to establish the most tightly regulated legalization program in the country. Check out this article to read more about the plan.
While we may not agree with all aspects of the proposal – including the ban on home cultivation – we commend the governor for spearheading this initiative. In the coming months, we expect a robust discussion within the General Assembly, and there may be opportunities to amend the legislation.
One thing is for sure: Legalization will finally have the hearing it deserves this year. It's going to be an interesting session, so be sure to stay tuned for more updates on how you can help ensure that legalization crosses the finish line this year.