Marijuana jobs in limbo after RI lawmakers strike dispensary expansion from budget
Hundreds of jobs uncertain after legislators kill plan to add 12 dispensary locations.
PROVIDENCE — Last year, as the state began licensing cultivators to grow medical marijuana for its three dispensaries, Joseph Andreozzi and his mother, Magdalena, started a business they hoped would capitalize on the flourishing pot business.
They formed Worm Grown Composting Co. For a fee, the Cranston company collects plant waste from marijuana growers — the unused leaves, stalks and root balls — and feeds it to their worms. As the worms break down the material, they filter out fungicides and other additives used in the growing process to produce a clean compost that can be safely landfilled.
But since Gov. Gina Raimondo’s plan to open 12 more pot dispensaries came to a grinding halt June 8, the future of Worm Grown Composting is uncertain, said Magdalena Andreozzi.
So are hundreds of jobs linked to almost 70 cultivator businesses.
In revising the state budget for the year that begins July 1, the House Finance Committee killed Raimondo’s plans to expand the medical marijuana program, billed as a way to improve patient access to lab-tested medicine, reduce prices through greater competition and curb the black-market dealing of home growers.
Legislative leaders seem unconvincedof the need to expand the program that Norman Birenbaum, the state’s top medical-marijuana regulator, outlined to lawmakers several times in recent months.
“The proposal would have created far too many centers,” House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello said. “I don’t know what the right number is, but the whole system needs a comprehensive review before taking any further action. I don’t want to make a decision that may have to be pulled back.”
Greg Pare, a spokesman for Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, said in an email last week: “The president does not have confidence in the current medical-marijuana