The number of employees working out of Rhode Island’s Office of Cannabis Regulation could more than double in the state’s next fiscal year budget, based on a proposal on the table.
Gov. Dan McKee’s budget for the Office of Cannabis Regulation for fiscal year 2023 is $5.6 million and represents a total of 20 full-time equivalency, or FTE, positions. By contrast, the office’s FY 2022 budget totaled $1.2 million.
The infusion of $4.4 million in new proposed funding reflects the addition of 13 new FTEs within the office.
McKee’s spending plan for the office dovetails into his backing of legalized adult-use recreational marijuana. Lawmakers in both chambers of the General Assembly have introduced bills calling for legalization beyond medicinal purposes – with a plan to impose a 20% tax on retail sales.
Ethan Freiermuth, legislative budget analyst with the state, combed through budgetary data with members of the Rhode Island Committee on Finance at a recent meeting. The committee is one of multiple legislative panels holding meetings to discuss the budget.
“The Office of Cannabis Regulation determines regulations, licensing permits and conducts inspections of cannabis cultivators’ labs and compassion centers,” Freiermuth said as he gave a high-level overview of the agency. “It is funded entirely from restricted receipts garnered from fees.”
Freiermuth pointed out the anticipated FTE increase would reflect a heightened need to ensure licensees are adhering to state laws and have more resources for other administrative tasks.
If the proposal moves forward, the office would employ seven inspectors, two licensing aides, one interdepartmental project manager, one administrative officer, one investigative officer and one analyst.
Behind the scenes, some of the office’s budget also would go toward a new vendor that would create a software program for the state for cannabis tagging and licensure tasks.
The office had a contract in place in the FY 2022 budget as demand for medical marijuana continued increasing within the state. However, the prior vendor was unable to fulfill its commitments – reportedly because of financial hardships.
“It’s been a challenge, but it’s been a part of the process to switch us over to the new software system,” said Elizabeth Tanner, director of business regulation with the state. “We really wanted someone with a reputation – someone that’s been around for a while.”
As is the case with most operations, the largest item in the office’s budget is salaries and benefits. The FY 2023 proposal has the figure set at $2.5 million, up from $900,000 in 2022.
The Office of Cannabis Regulation is folded into Rhode Island’s Department of Business Regulation. The entire state agency was the subject of the House Committee on Finance hearing, which was held March 24.
While cannabis regulation could receive an infusion of additional dollars in the FY 2023 budget, it represents 15% of the Department of Business Regulation’s overall budget.
Other offices within the department include insurance, central management, and building, design, and fire professionals.
This article was originally posted on McKee’s Rhode Island budget plan includes more funding for Office of Cannabis Regulation