Rhode Island Could Generate $15M in Marijuana Tax Revenue, Gov. Claims


In a recent interview, the governor of Rhode Island said that a legalized and regulated adult use marijuana market would mean up to $15 million in tax revenue in the market’s first year.

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo claims that Rhode Island would generate $10 million to $15 million in tax revenue in its first year of sales if the state were to legalize adult use marijuana, The Providence Journal reports.

In an interview with the Rhode Island news publication, Raimondo spoke on the 2017 General Assembly session and acknowledged that it makes sense for her state to look into legalization with Massachusetts, its neighbor to the north, having recently legalized marijuana. She’s previously noted she’s open to legalization, but has also said her priority is to establish the right regulations.

“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 told The Providence Journal.

Rhode Island is the most likely among the states we’ve predicted to legalize recreational marijuana in the coming year. For the past two years, Rhode Island has been among one of the top states for marijuana use. It legalized medical marijuana 10 years ago and has since then decriminalized small possession. About 55 percent of Rhode Island voters support legalizing and regulating recreational marijuana, according to a recent poll conducted by Brown University.

In December, about 200 Rhode Islanders gathered for a Publick Occurrences forum to discuss the logistics of legalization. Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven M. Pare was in attendance.

“I think eventually like any other states, it will become legal, legalized here in Rhode Island,” he said at the time.

Democratic House Speaker Nicholas Matiello has voiced interest in investigating legalization since Massachusetts’ voters passed an adult use measure in November. Jaret Moffat, director of the pro-legalization group Regulate Rhode Island, told The Providence Journal that he expects a marijuana legalization bill to be introduced in the first month of this legislative session.

“Massachusetts is the first state on the East Coast to adopt a fiscally responsible [marijuana] policy and it’s pretty clear there will be a domino effect,” Moffat said in November. “We hope that the Rhode Island leadership sees this as a smart policy issue. We can improve public health and safety while eliminating the illicit marketing and replacing it with a regulated market.”

Moffat added that previous legalization bills introduced in the Legislature suggested taxing marijuana at $50 an ounce, which would pull in a projected $40 million to $60 million in revenue a few years into the market’s launch.

Matt Sheaff, spokesman for the state’s Department of Business Regulation, told The Providence Journal that Gov. Raimondo’s revenue projections were “back-of-the-napkin” estimates.

“This is not something we should be rushing into or that the governor intends to include in her budget,” Sheaff said.

If Rhode Island lawmakers do introduce and approve a legalization bill in the 2017 legislative session, the state will become the ninth to legalize adult use marijuana. Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, California, Maine, Nevada and Massachusetts have done so already. Legal marijuana sales in the U.S. are projected to reach $21.8 billion by 2020.

Read the entire The Providence Journal report here.

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