Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee revealed a budget proposal that pitches a cannabis legalization program launching by April 2022.
On March 11, Governor McKee spoke of his 2022 fiscal year proposal with the intention of strict regulation, social equity and health and safety in mind. “Prohibiting the possession, cultivation, and sale of cannabis to adults has proven to be an ineffective policy for the State of Rhode Island,” the legislation states. “In the absence of a legal, tightly regulated market, an illicit cannabis industry has thrived, undermining the public health, safety and welfare of Rhode Islanders. Regional and national shifts in cannabis policy have increased access to legal cannabis and marijuana products for Rhode Islanders in other states, the sale of which benefits the residents of the providing state while providing no funds to the State of Rhode Island to address the public health, safety and welfare externalities that come with increased access to cannabis, including marijuana.” McKee’s predecessor, Gina Raimondo, also supported the idea of cannabis legalization during her time as governor.
The legislation includes a cannabis sales tax set at 17 percent (broken down as seven percent sales tax and 10 percent excise tax on cannabis products). However, it appears that there’s a chance of an additional three percent wholesale tax may also be applied in the future, as well as what the governor calls a “weight-based excise tax on marijuana cultivation.” The proposal also includes a social equity rule to ensure that five out of the 25 planned retail licenses will be reserved for minority business owners, and that an Office of Regulation would be created to manage all applicants.On March 9, State Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey and Health & Human Services Chairman Joshua Miller announced their own cannabis legislation, which was filed on March 11. “Cannabis legalization is a monumental shift in public policy that effectively creates a new economy,” Miller said. “We want to ensure as many Rhode Islanders as possible have the opportunity to participate in this new economy.”