Lawmakers in Rhode Island have begun to reconsider a proposal that was fronted by Governor Gina Raimondo earlier this year. The proposal was aimed at legalizing marijuana before the corona pandemic outbreak.
Governor Raimondo’s proposal recommended a legal cannabis industry that would be kept under state control with shops run by the state and a ban imposed on home cultivation.
The new recommendations received mixed views from the lawmakers, several of whom expressed skepticism about a state-run cannabis industry.
However, the general acknowledgment was that cannabis legalization was gaining momentum in one form or the other.
Democratic Senator and incoming chairman of Senate Finance Committee, Ryan Pearson, said he is optimistic the lawmakers will take up the issue in the next session.
He predicted that the Committee will formally consider legalizing cannabis in January rather than wait until June to include the new measures in the budget.
Initially, the governor’s proposal was included in her pre-pandemic budget plan. However, legalization for the fiscal year was never passed by the General Assembly, which continued to operate on the current budget.
Joseph Shekarchi, the Democratic incoming House Speaker, said he is open to the idea of marijuana legalization, adding that the proposal would gain majority support from the House.
Also, incoming House Majority Leader Christopher Blazejewski said the issue had gained strong momentum in recent years, adding that a few years ago, it was impossible to have people who were ready to embrace policy change.
Blazejewski said that now with the senate leader and the senate president in full support of the new measures, the state had come a long way.
In response to the skepticism expressed by many lawmakers about the marijuana industry being run by the state, Shekarchi said he is aware of the lawmakers’ wishes to have the industry left to the current cultivators and dispensaries.
Shekarchi asserted he believes the governor wants to adopt a model similar to New Hampshire, but they can still explore other options such as a private model.