US (RI): Cannabis legalization bill approved in Senate committee

A Rhode Island Senate committee on Monday approved a cannabis legalization bill that’s being championed by leadership in the chamber. It’s the first time a bill to legalize cannabis for recreational use has ever advanced in the state.

The Judiciary Committee—which previously held an April hearing on the reform legislation, as well as a competing proposal from the governor—passed the Senate bill in substitute form in a 6-2 vote. A third legalization measure was also recently filed on the House side by Rep. Scott Slater (D) and several cosponsors.

Curiously, the Senate panel’s action comes just days after House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi (D) signaled that legalization wouldn’t be taken up until the summer or fall. The Senate, however, appears to have different plans and is expected to take up its bill for a floor vote as soon as next week.

There were several key changes made to the Senate bill before it advanced through the committee. That includes imposing a moratorium on approving additional cannabis cultivators—something that the state’s existing medical cannabis growers have insisted upon because they say the market is already oversaturated.


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