US (RI): House panel discusses competing cannabis legalization proposals

A Rhode Island House committee on Tuesday discussed a bill to legalize cannabis in the state, as well as the governor’s separate budget proposal that includes provisions to end cannabis criminalization and create a regulated market.

The lawmaker-driven bill was introduced earlier this month following months of negotiations between legislative leaders. McKee released his budget proposal with the legalization components in January. “I’ve been supporting legalization of cannabis for a number of years,” Slater told fellow lawmakers at Tuesday’s hearing. “I just think it’s the best public policy” and is “long overdue.”

Referring to Rhode Island’s neighboring states that have already enacted legalization, he called Rhode Island “kind of an island of prohibition, surrounded by legal cannabis around us. We’re already dealing with it,” he said. “We might as well take the revenue in” by legalizing sales.

Meanwhile, advocates who testified continued to raise concerns about what they view as insufficient equity provisions included in the legislation, specifically taking issue with a component requiring those with past cannabis convictions to proactively petition for relief, rather than have the process automated by the state.

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