US (RI): Lawmakers weigh potential model for legal cannabis

In their first action on the issue since the chamber’s leaders signaled support for legalizing recreational cannabis, Rhode Island senators on Wednesday night began considering a proposal to set up a system for legalized cannabis in Rhode Island.

The proposal — made by Gov. Gina Raimondo in her pre-pandemic budget proposal in January and heard by the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday night — is to keep recreational cannabis under complete state control, with state-run shops akin to New Hampshire’s liquor outlets, and to ban home-growing of the plant except for those authorized under the medical cannabis program.

Members of the committee expressed skepticism about the state-run model compared to allowing private businesses to sell the drug, but the tone of the meeting indicated the committee is trying to figure out how — not if — they will advance legislation to legalize recreational cannabis next year.

The soon-to-be chairman of the panel, Sen. Ryan Pearson, said afterwards he anticipates the committee will take up the matter in January, rather than waiting to include it in the fiscal year 2021-22 budget, typically passed in June. (The General Assembly still hasn’t passed a budget for the current fiscal year, which started in July, but may return to pass that measure in December.)


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