Marijuana Legalization Framed As Inevitability At Rhode Island Senate Joint Hearing

MJ moment

A pair of Rhode Island Senate committees on Thursday held a joint hearing on two marijuana legalization proposals—including one proposed by the governor—as well as several bills to reform the state’s existing medical cannabis program. The Senate Judiciary and Finance Committees heard testimony from administration officials on Gov. Dan McKee’s (D) budget measure as well as legislative leaders sponsoring the competing bill. While the panels did not immediately vote on either proposal, members generally discussed legalization as an inevitability in the state, especially with neighboring states enacting the reform, That said, there were a number of questions raised about issues such as impaired driving and licensing rules. “I think now is the time and, hopefully, we’re able to work with the administration and all the parties involved to come up with a piece of legislation that will pass this year,” Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey (D) said in his opening statement. That’s been a theme since the proposals were introduced: lawmakers might have some differing opinions on what the state’s legal marijuana market should look like, but they’re willing to make compromises to reach a deal in a timely fashion as a growing number of states in the region and nationally also pursue moves to end cannabis prohibition. The governor’s measure calls for 25 marijuana retailers to be licensed each year for the first three years of implementation. Those would be awarded on a lottery basis, but five would be specifically given to minority-owned businesses, a category that also includes firms run by women. Additional licenses would be issued in the future based on demand. “We feel strongly that that awarding these licenses by way of a lottery is really the best way to ensure fairness and transparency and accountability,” Jonathan Womer, director of the state Office of Management and…

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