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Bowing to pressure from nearby states that are moving to legalize marijuana, Democratic Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, who has long remained reluctant about the issue, says she will formally propose that the Ocean State end cannabis prohibition.

“Things have changed, mainly because all of our neighbors are moving forward,” she told the Providence Journal in an article published Jan. 13, 2019. “We're not an island, in fact. Like it or not, we're going to be incurring public safety and public health expenses because it's legal in Massachusetts. … And I think it is time for us to put together our own regulatory and taxing framework.”

Newly inaugurated Democratic Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont has said that legalizing marijuana in his state will be among his “priorities” for the new legislative session.

Unlike most other states that have moved to enact legalization, however, Raimondo wants Rhode Island to prohibit home cultivation of cannabis. She also wants to ban high-potency forms of marijuana products, such as dabs. Servings of edibles could contain no more than 5 milligrams of THC.

Photo courtesy of the office of Gov. Gina Raimondo

Raimondo said that she spoke with several other governors about marijuana policy at a conference in December 2018.

“It's going to be the strongest regulatory framework in the country,” she argued.

“We have seen the pitfalls of home cultivation in other states when it comes to how it threatens public health and public safety,” Norman Birenbaum, the state's top medical cannabis regulator and a key Raimondo advisor on the broader legalization plan, told the Journal. “How it promotes the illicit market. How it undercuts the regulated market, how it puts unsafe and untested and unregulated product out there for people. And how it also serves as cover for states that supposedly have adult use to be export states and export to the rest of the country. And we don't think that we should have that mechanism here.”

Medical cannabis patients would still be allowed to grow their own medicine, he said. Currently, Washington is the only one of the 10 legalized states that does not allow recreational marijuana consumers to grow their own.

Birenbaum also suggested that the state's three existing medical cannabis dispensaries would continue serving patients but would also likely add adult-use sales. About 20-40 additional retail outlets would be licensed as well, subject to municipal approval. Sales are expected to begin early next year.

In recent weeks, the governor and Rhode Island legislative leaders have begun to talk openly about the fact that legalization in neighboring states is increasing pressure to act.

“Given my druthers, if I could make all of these decisions in a vacuum, I've been favoring a wait-and-see approach,” Raimondo said in late 2018. “However, Connecticut is going to do it. The new governor-elect has been crystal clear, this is a priority. It's happening. Massachusetts is already doing it. We're a tiny state in between these two other states.”

Democratic House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello raised similar concerns.

“I think we have to study it and then decide what we want to do as a state, but I am mindful that Massachusetts has legalized it. I believe Connecticut is going to legalize it,” he said. “I think we're probably going to end up with more social costs without the revenues and that would probably be the worst situation of all.”

Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who endorsed legalizing marijuana in December 2018, has also characterized his own shift as being precipitated by the looming fall of prohibition in nearby states, such as New JerseyIn Rhode Island, Raimondo is expected to formally release details of her legalization plan in her proposed budget, which will be submitted to the legislature Jan. 17, 2019, though she may also discuss the issue in her State of the State speech on Jan. 15. It remains to be seen whether lawmakers will agree with all of the finer points of the governor's proposal.

This article has been republished from Marijuana Moment under a content syndication agreement. Read the original article here.

 

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