HOPKINTON — If city voters choose to reject a November ballot question that asks whether to allow recreational marijuana sales in the community, it’s a decision that could cost the city millions of dollars. tax revenue down the road.
The decision of whether or not to allow pot retail outlets in the community is not in the hands of elected officials, and Hopkinton City Council Speaker Stephen Moffitt Jr. fears voters will know at what point a “no” vote could be negative. be for local revenue and budget, including the loss of a 3% return on every dollar spent to purchase marijuana from a local dispensary.
Matthew Santacroce, acting deputy director of Rhode Island’s Department of Business Regulation, said during a presentation to Hopkinton City Council this week that educating the public will be up to local officials and lawmakers.
“During this process, we were careful not to adopt an advocacy position; it’s not our job,” Santacroce said Monday night. “Our job is to coordinate with companies transparently in accordance with the law. What you’re looking for is an advocacy effort, and I think legislators have a critical role to play in that process.
This week’s presentation came as the state attempts to prepare communities to vote on the issue in the upcoming November election and seeks to streamline legalization by opening recreational sales in December.
Across Rhode Island, 31 of the state’s 39 municipalities have decided to let voters decide the fate of sales in their community by going to the referendum, including Hopkinton, Richmond and Charlestown.
Under the new law, the industry will be heavily regulated under state oversight, with lawmakers set to create a cannabis control commission in early 2023. Cities will automatically join in unless voters reject the creation of such companies in a referendum containing state-approved information. Language. The language of municipal referendums across the state will be exactly the same and was predetermined by the state as part of the legislative package passed in late May.
Every referendum, including Hopkinton’s, will read: “Will new cannabis-related licenses for companies involved in the cultivation, manufacturing, laboratory testing and retail sale of cannabis for adult recreational purposes be issued in the city of (Hopkinton)? »
The Recreation Act allows individuals to keep 1 ounce on their person and up to 10 ounces and 3 plants at home, Santacroce said. Sales will begin in December at nine licensed dispensaries across the state – five are already operating as medical sales facilities and four more are expected to open in the near future – and all medical sales facilities will become “hybrid sales locations” effective of December 1.
“The idea is that if it starts with the nine compassion centers on December 1, it will be at the nine existing licensed medical retailers in the state,” Santacroce said. “The theory is that they are already selling marijuana in a compliant way, so they can already do so safely.”
The nine existing facilities are spread fairly evenly across the six regions of the state to provide population-based access and ensure that all medical patients are within 20 minutes of a recreational vending facility.
Once the Cannabis Control Commission is established, the body will then be tasked with establishing formal regulations and inspection protocols before approving 24 additional outlets across the state, ultimately culminating in the assignment of four outlets in the southwest region of Rhode Island, Santacroce said. .
For communities where recreational marijuana is sold, the state tax system will provide significant financial benefits. Under state law, cities where pot is sold will receive 3% of sales through a set 20% tax system that mimics that used in neighboring Massachusetts. Under the system, the state tax and a secondary marijuana tax are also applied.
Santacroce said early revenue estimates indicate the impact of such a tax could mean up to $2 million to $3 million for a city where the sales take place. The town currently has two cultivators, listed in state records as CRI and THBCD, but does not have a medical sales dispensary.
Moffitt said he was concerned the general public might not be aware of this information, and he indicated the same when he objected to the decision to send the measure to a referendum in July. The referendum was ultimately approved by a 3-2 vote.
The main concern, Moffitt said, is that the public might not be fully aware of the impact a “no” vote might have, and (the city) might not be able to reverse the impact a time this will happen.
“The ballot question does not tell the voter that there are financial implications to this decision,” Moffitt said. “There is no indication that if I vote no it could cost me tax revenue.”
Councilman Scott Bill Hirst expressed trepidation at the idea of a business opening and said his main concern was that the state not “sell the city a bogus bill” that would backfire on the community local.
“The city has been burned on solar tax revenue, and I think it’s important to note that the 3% could still change,” he said. “People got made a lot of promises that were never kept, and they just got burned by solar power when it was supposed to be an economic benefit.”