In the early evening of June 22, the Rhode Island House of Representatives passed the state’s $9.9 billion budget for fiscal 2020. Among the high-profile provisions in the 488-page spending plan was Article 15, which significantly reshaped the state’s medical marijuana industry. After six years of three dispensaries, the General Assembly expanded the marketplace to nine, and doubled the price of a license to $500,000.
In his budgetary post-mortem, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello expressed his satisfaction with the final product: “There is something in there for almost every segment of society. I would guess that everyone in this chamber [got] something they liked, but not everything they liked.”
For his part, Mattiello got something he liked very much: nine words added to Article 15’s rulemaking section, which mandated that any new cannabis or hemp rules promulgated by the Department of Business Regulations “shall be subject to approval by the General Assembly prior to enactment.”
In the hullaballoo over the licensing fee hike and the jockeying for the six new licenses, this power shift from the governor to the speaker of the House went largely unnoticed. Providence Senator Josh Miller, one of two point people in the General Assembly on cannabis legislation, says he found out about it either just before or just after the budget passed, but generally “it was not well-known. I was surprised, and I’m not easily surprised at this point.” [Read more at Rhode Island Monthly]