fb-pixel Skip to main content

R.I. governor proposes marijuana legalization as neighboring states launch programs

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo gives her inaugural address at the State House in Providence, R.I. on Jan. 1.Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

PROVIDENCE — After resisting marijuana legalization for several years, Governor Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island is ready to bring adult-use cannabis to the Ocean State, fueled by the legalization efforts and growing industries in neighboring states, like Massachusetts.

Raimondo, who started her second term as governor earlier this month, formally proposed legalization in her budget last week for the fiscal year starting July 1.

“I have some reluctance about it. But I think we can’t not do it with Massachusetts and Connecticut coming online. Like it or not, it’s here,” Raimondo said last Tuesday in an interview with the Globe at her office at the State House in Providence.


“It’s all around us. We will experience all the effects that come from it. So I felt the right thing to do in light of that, was to put in place our own regulatory structure to make sure Rhode Islanders are safe,” she said. “If Massachusetts weren’t online and Connecticut coming online, it would be a very different calculation for me.”

If legislators approve Raimondo’s proposed budget, Rhode Islanders could see recreational marijuana shops as early as next January, according to the Providence Journal.

She’s not without concerns, though. A mother of two, Raimondo said she has spoken to leaders of other states with recreational markets, and high-potency edible products have caused the most problems, particularly with children.

“Kids get sick. That’s the concern. People get sick,” she said.

“I worry about kids, maybe because I’m the mother of a high-schooler and middle-schooler, so we’re going to not allow packaging in which the edibles look like gummy bears and candy. The concerns are making sure children are safe.”

Raimondo’s proposal would limit the amount of THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana, that can be used in edibles.


Another difference from other New England marijuana markets: Raimondo is proposing that Rhode Island prohibit home cultivation to keep the industry as “professionally done and regulated as we can.” Residents in Massachusetts, Maine, and Vermont may grow their own marijuana plants.

“The more I look at it and think about it,” she said, “I do think we can do this in a way, properly regulated, that allows it and keeps everybody safe.”

Mark Arsenault can be reached at mark.arsenault@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @bostonglobemark. Felicia Gans can be reached at felicia.gans@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @FeliciaGans.