The Herald News
By Jennifer Bogdan The Providence Journal
Rhode Island could see $10 million to $15 million in revenue in its first year if the state legalizes marijuana, Gov. Gina Raimondo said in an interview with The Providence Journal about the upcoming General Assembly session.
Her comments marked the first time the state has publicly talked about its own revenue estimates for a legalized marijuana market. But Raimondo cautioned those numbers do not reflect significant additional money the state would have to spend on regulators, additional public safety and prevention programs.
And if the governor had it her way, talking about marijuana legalization would not be on her to-do list.
“It hasn’t been a priority of mine. But … now that Massachusetts has gone first I think we do need to take some time early in the year to figure out what we should do,” Raimondo said.
Matt Sheaff, a spokesman for the Department of Business Regulation, called the revenue projection the governor referenced a “back-of-the-napkin” estimate and said it was too soon to talk about any specific tax rate.
“This is not something we should be rushing into or that the governor intends to include her budget,” Sheaff said.
But the issue is sure to come up quickly once legislators return to Smith Hill in January. Jared Moffat, director of the pro-legalization group Regulate Rhode Island, said a marijuana legalization bill will be introduced almost certainly in the first month of session.
Moffat said that under previous legalization proposals, which suggested taxing marijuana at $50 an ounce, Regulate Rhode Island projected $40 million to $60 million in revenue a few years in after the market has ramped up. The group has since discovered that weight-based taxes can pose challenges, and this year’s proposal will likely include a flat sales tax.
Meanwhile on Wednesday, the ACLU of Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition (RIPAC) took issue with new regulations intended to tighten the reins on the state’s medical marijuana program starting Jan. 1. The program now includes more than 16,360 patients.
Calling the regulations unnecessary and burdensome, both the ACLU and RIPAC said they are prepared to have legislation filed next year to overturn the rules.