While Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo appears to be hell bent on squeezing the medical marijuana community for taxes on homegrown cannabis plants, a couple of lawmakers are hoping to clip the nuts off the wild horse she rode in on with a piece of legislation that would allow the state to capitalize on a fully legal pot market.
Two proposals are set to invade both chambers of the state legislature sometime this week. Representative Scott Slater of Providence will reportedly introduce his bill to the House, while Joshua Miller of Cranston will file a companion measure in the Senate. Both proposals are an attempt to drag Rhode Island out of the gutter of prohibition by establishing a taxed and regulated system that would allow adults over the age of 21 to purchase weed in manner similar to beer. It would also eliminate the criminal penalties associated with pot possession for those not authorized to use marijuana under the state’s medical program.
It was predicted last year that Rhode Island was destined to become the first state in the nation to legalize a recreational cannabis industry by way of the state legislature. Unfortunately, the Marijuana, Regulation, Control and Taxation Act, a measure that managed to build some impressive momentum through bi-partisan support, ended up getting sandbagged and left for dead due to the last minute indecision of key committee members.
There is a great deal of hope that the same circle jerk politics that sabotaged a recreational pot market in 2015 will not rear its ugly head during the current legislative session. That’s because supporters believe it makes more sense to generate tax revenue through the creation of a retail pot market rather than through a concept devised by Governor Raimondo suggesting the taxation of cannabis plants grown in the homes of patients and caregivers.
Last Tuesday, the governor revealed a budget plan that proposed a unique method for generating over $8 million in tax revenue – one that involves the bilking of homegrown medical marijuana to the tune of $150 per plant for patients and $350 for caregivers. The objectionable reasoning behind the Raimondo administration’s tax scheme is that homegrown cannabis plants have the potential of generating $17,000 worth of medical marijuana over the course of a year, so the “tag fee” is really just a drop in the bucket.
The only problem with this concept, according to local marijuana advocates, is that patients who grow their own weed are in no way setting themselves up to generate a profit on the sale of medical marijuana – that would be illegal. In an interview with Tom Angell of the Marijuana Majority, Joanne Leppanen, executive director of the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition, argued that the governor’s tax scheme is misguided because cannabis grown by patients “does not produce revenue.”
In 2015, lawmakers projected tens of millions of dollars would be added to Rhode Island’s tax coffers through the legalization of recreational marijuana. Both Slater and Miller recently told The Associated Press that capitalizing on the recreational sector would be more profitable than any tax plan targeting the medical marijuana community.