6 R.I. communities reject cannabis sales; combined $1.4B in local school bonds OK’d

VOTERS IN 25 Rhode Island communities Tuesday approved recreational cannabis sales, while another six rejected pot businesses setting up in their communities. / PBN FILE PHOTO/MICHAEL SALERNO

PROVIDENCE – Voters in 25 Rhode Island communities Tuesday approved recreational cannabis sales, while another six rejected allowing pot businesses to set up in their communities after recreational marijuana sales officially become legal in the state on Dec. 1. 

The R.I. Cannabis Act automatically authorized cities and towns to allow recreational sales, unless local officials decided to put the issue to voters on the Nov. 8 ballot. The vast majority of the state’s municipalities let the voters decide.

In addition to the communities that approved marijuana sales on Tuesday, another five communities – Cranston, Pawtucket, Central Falls, Exeter and Foster – had decided to allow sales without a community vote. And other three municipalities – Providence, Warwick and Portsmouth – already host medical cannabis dispensaries, which will double as retail outlets.  

However, voter approval doesn’t mean recreational sales will take place in all those municipalities. Rhode Island will issue just 33 retail licenses under current plans, and nine are already allocated to licensed medical marijuana dispensaries. 

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Voters approved recreational marijuana businesses in Bristol, Burrillville, Charlestown, Coventry, Cumberland, East Providence, Glocester, Hopkinton, Johnston, Lincoln, Middletown, Narragansett, Newport, New Shoreham, North Kingstown, North Providence, North Smithfield, Richmond, South Kingstown, Tiverton, Warren, Westerly, West Greenwich, West Warwick and Woonsocket.

Voters rejected recreational cannabis businesses in Barrington, East Greenwich, Jamestown, Little Compton, Scituate and Smithfield. 

Communities that allow marijuana sales stand to collect a 3% tax on licensed sales within their borders. The state will collect another 17%.

How they voted: 

  • Barrington: 54.9% disapproved, 47.1% approved 
  • Bristol: 52.9% approved, 47.1 disapproved 
  • Burrillville: 58.9% approved, 41.1% disapproved 
  • Charlestown: 54.2% approved, 45.8% disapproved 
  • Coventry: 59.9% approved, 40.1% disapproved 
  • Cumberland: 54.2% approved, 45.8% disapproved 
  • East Greenwich: 51.1% disapproved, 48.9% approved 
  • East Providence: 62.1% approved, 37.9% disapproved 
  • Glocester: 55.5% approved, 44.5% disapproved 
  • Hopkinton: 60.8% approved, 39.2% disapproved 
  • Jamestown: 52.6% disapproved, 47.4% approved 
  • Johnston: 56% approved, 44% disapproved 
  • Lincoln: 50.8% approved, 49.2% disapproved 
  • Little Compton: 57.1% disapproved, 42.9% approved 
  • Middletown: 56.9% approved, 43.1 disapproved 
  • Narragansett: 52.6% approved, 47.4% disapproved 
  • Newport: 60.8% approved, 39.2% disapproved 
  • New Shoreham: 54.9% approved, 45.1 disapproved 
  • North Kingstown: 54.7% approved, 45.3% disapproved 
  • North Providence: 56.1% approved, 43.9% disapproved 
  • North Smithfield: 56.1% approved, 43.9% disapproved 
  • Richmond: 58.2% approved, 41.8% disapproved 
  • Scituate: 50.5% disapproved, 49.5% approved 
  • Smithfield: 50.7% disapproved, 49.3% approved 
  • South Kingstown: 60.1% approved, 39.9% disapproved 
  • Tiverton: 54.8% approved, 45.2% disapproved 
  • Warren: 57.6% approved, 42.4% disapproved 
  • Westerly: 55% approved, 45% disapproved 
  • West Greenwich: 52.1% approved, 47.9% disapproved 
  • West Warwick: 60.6% approved, 34.9% disapproved 
  • Woonsocket: 62% approved, 38% disapproved

In addition to voting on recreational cannabis at the municipal level, voters in some communities approved seeking a combined $1.4 billion in bonds for various school construction projects.

Voters in Pawtucket overwhelmingly want a new city high school. With that, the end is near for McCoy Stadium. The $330 million bond question to support the construction of a new 482,500-square-foot high school that would be built on the site of the former home of the Pawtucket Red Sox was passed by nearly a 4-to-1 margin.

The proposed new school would unite the Charles E. Shea and William E. Tolman high schools, house approximately 2,500 students, and include large team-based digital learning space, engineering and STEM lab spaces, an outdoor plaza and an on-site athletic field. It will also be the first new high school built in the city since 1938.

In North Providence, the $125 million school construction bond question passed 76.6% to 23.4%. Funds from the bond would be used to build three new elementary schools – Centredale, Greystone and Dr. Joseph A. Whelan – in town and improve North Providence High School with new athletic facilities.

On Aquidneck Island, a proposal to combine the Newport and Middletown school districts was shot down when voters in Newport rejected the idea by a 382-vote margin. Middletown voters approved it by a 30% margin.

At the same time, nearly three out of every four Middletown voters on Tuesday approved a $235 million school bond for the construction of several new schools, but now town officials will have to decide to whether to proceed since the failed regionalization proposal will mean a reduced state reimbursement for the construction costs.

In Warwick, voters approved a $350 million bond for two new high school buildings, which will replace the Pilgrim and Toll Gate high schools, by 58.7%. Westerly voters, meanwhile, voted by 67.8% to approve a $50 million bond for a new elementary school and other repair work.

And support for school bonds was even stronger in East Providence, where 78.1% of voters authorized a $148 million bond for the construction of a new building to replace Edward R. Martin Middle School, as well as an early childhood center and renovations to Waddington Elementary School.

Providence approved a $125 million bond to renovate the city’s public school, with 90% support.

And 72% of city voters OK’d a controversial shift to how school board members are elected, according to preliminary, unofficial results from the R.I. Board of Elections. Beginning in 2024, city residents will elect five members to the school board, each representing different parts of the city, with the remaining five members appointed by the mayor. (The current policy allows the mayor to appoint all nine school board members). The switch to a hybrid school board was one of 10 city charter changes on the November ballot, all of which were approved.

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