Rhode Island’s governor is pitching an unconventional recreational marijuana legalization plan centered on state-owned stores operated by private contractors, which would offer modest business opportunities for cannabis entrepreneurs.
The move reflects growing pressure to legalize adult-use cannabis along the East Coast after Massachusetts launched its recreational marijuana industry in 2018. It also dovetails legalization efforts by governors in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York.
Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo started talking in late 2018 about potentially legalizing adult use because, she said: “Our hand is being forced by all of our neighbors.”
In particular, the state is losing revenue and economic opportunities to bordering Massachusetts, where the recreational marijuana program is picking up steam after a slow start.
Rhode Island’s draft legislation, which is considered a long shot in the Legislature this year, calls for licenses for private cultivators and processors as well as the contractors that would manage the retail stores. The plan doesn’t spell out how many permits the state would issue.