Municipalities debate retail marijuana dispensary referendums

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) — Cities and towns in Rhode Island are debating whether to opt in or out of the state’s licensing of retail marijuana dispensaries after the state legalized recreational marijuana use in May. And has been preparing for retailers to sell cannabis when sales kick off in December.

Now, municipalities that opt into the referendum will put a question on the November ballot for residents to decide if their town gets a piece of tax revenue from the state.

Monday night, Coventry discussed the referendum, prior to approving the question to go on the ballot.

In that meeting, town councilors noted cloudiness surrounding the referendum on whether or not retailers would be awarded licenses in towns that vote no in the election.

The Rhode Island Cannabis Act states that if cities or towns don’t opt into these referendums, businesses will be able to automatically apply for retail licenses in those towns without the municipalities receiving any of the tax revenue.

“You would think that if you never approve this and you never put it on the ballot, then nothing would happen to this town with cannabis, this is 125 pages of legalese…if you don’t put it to the people the state can come in and just do it,” according to the Coventry town council.

A total of 33 retailers in Rhode Island will receive licenses to sell recreational marijuana beginning December 1.

Cities and towns have until August 10 to make a decision. Other cities and towns in Rhode Island to have opted into the referendum include:

  • Barrington
  • Bristol
  • Charlestown
  • Cumberland
  • East Greenwich
  • Hopkinton
  • North Kingstown
  • Scituate
  • Tiverton
  • Warren
  • West Greenwich
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