Majority of RI cities and towns will vote on recreational marijuana sales


Thirty-one of Rhode Island’s 39 cities and towns will ask voters whether to allow the sale of recreational marijuana within their borders, the secretary of state’s office said Thursday.

In May, Rhode Island became the 19th state to legalize adult-use recreational marijuana, with sales starting Dec. 1. The state plans to license 24 new retail shops in six zones around the state, a process expected to take up to two years to complete. But the legislation allows Rhode Island’s municipalities to hold a referendum asking voters if they want to opt out of offering licenses to sell recreational marijuana.

Communities had until Wednesday afternoon to file certified ballot questions with the secretary of state’s office.

Here is the list of cities and towns that will put the question to voters in November: Barrington, Bristol, Burrillville, Charlestown, Coventry, Cumberland, East Greenwich, East Providence, Glocester, Hopkinton, Jamestown, Johnston, Lincoln, Little Compton, Middletown, Narragansett, Newport, New Shoreham, North Kingstown, North Providence, North Smithfield, Richmond, Scituate, Smithfield, South Kingstown, Tiverton, Warren, Westerly, West Greenwich, West Warwick, and Woonsocket.

Communities that already host licensed medical marijuana treatment centers — Providence, Warwick and Portsmouth — are unable to opt out. The additional communities that will not hold marijuana votes are: Central Falls, Cranston, Exeter, Foster and Pawtucket.

Each ballot question will include the same language, which is part of the legalization bill. It will read: “Shall new cannabis related licenses for businesses involved in the cultivation, manufacture, laboratory testing and for the retail sale of adult recreational use cannabis be issued in the city (or town)?”

Recreational marijuana will be taxed at 20%, including a 10% cannabis tax, a 3% tax by the community where the marijuana is sold, and the current 7% sales tax. Municipalities that decline to offer licenses will not be eligible to receive tax revenue derived from marijuana sales.

The state’s three existing medical marijuana centers will be the first to sell recreational marijuana, and six other licensees are in the works. The other 24 planned retail licenses, four each in six zones around the state, will be determined by a cannabis control commission appointed by the governor.

The legislative proponents of legalization say the state’s new marijuana laws seek to dole out licenses with an eye toward helping communities hurt by strict War On Drugs policies. One license in each zone is reserved for a worker-owned cooperative and another for a social equity applicant, defined as someone who lives in a low-income neighborhood or who has been disproportionately impacted by laws criminalizing marijuana. But some still fear those hurt most by strict drug policies will be left behind.



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