Top Rhode Island Lawmaker Expects Marijuana Legalization Bill To Pass ‘Overwhelmingly’ By February

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Rhode Island’s House speaker says lawmakers are “very close” to introducing a bicameral negotiated marijuana legalization bill, and a top Senate leader saying he’s optimistic that it will pass “overwhelmingly” in both chambers when it comes up for a vote early in 2022. Legislators have been in talks for months to reconcile competing legalization proposals that have been brought forward by the House, Senate and governor’s office. Negotiations have been productive, and draft legislation will be introduced within weeks, “in the month of January,” House Speaker Joseph Sherkarchi (D) told Providence Business News. The bill’s filing “will begin a robust public hearing and vetting process,” he said. But it appears the plan is to get those legislative proceedings done quickly, as Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey (D) said the goal is to get the measure approved in the House and Senate by February. “Once it goes through the hearing process, I think that it will pass in both chambers overwhelmingly,” he said. While lawmakers have made progress in reaching agreements on various provisions that kept legalization from being enacted in 2021, the main sticking point concerns who should be in charge of regulating the cannabis program. “The Senate wants to have a separate independent commission to regulate the cannabis industry,” McCaffery said, while the House wants the state Department of Business Regulation (DBR) to hold that responsibility. “We have been working with the House on some language that hopefully everyone can live with,” he said. Shekarchi, for his part, said earlier this month that he’d be open to a compromise on the matter and floated the idea that there could ultimately be “some combination thereof or some hybrid version of it.” Sen. Josh Miller (D), sponsor of one legalization proposal that was approved in the Senate earlier this year, similarly said…

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