Earlier this month, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo introduced her annual budget bill. Similar to last year, the package includes legislation detailing a plan to legalize and regulate marijuana for adults 21 and older. Unlike the 2019 budget article, though, the new proposal would involve state-run retail stores and establish a Community Equity and Reinvestment Council to address the past decades of social harms caused by criminalization. You can read a comprehensive summary of the bill here.
The governor is showing leadership by recognizing the obvious: legalization is the only way forward for Rhode Island. But there’s serious concern that a system of state-owned marijuana stores could put this model on shaky legal ground, so long as marijuana remains federally banned. Similar plans in states like Utah have fallen apart.
Given that risk, we’re urging the governor and legislators to create a private option for retail stores as a backup plan in case state stores do not open or are shut down due to legal challenges.
Disappointingly, leaders of the General Assembly continue to ignore the will of their constituents and have dismissed the prospect of legalizing marijuana for adults this year. But the inclusion of Article 13 in the governor’s budget means the legislature will have to find some way to fill a $20-million hole if they remove the legalization plan.
We’ll keep you informed as the 2020 legislative session continues.