Federal officials meet with state marijuana regulators to discuss impacts of legalization
The Rhode Island Senate may have passed a bill to legalize marijuana this week, but a top House lawmaker said his chamber needed more time to resolve disputes between competing reform proposals .
In an interview with The Boston Globe published Thursday, Speaker of the House Joseph Shekarchi (D) was asked if Rhode Island could “afford to wait” for legalization in light of cannabis-related developments in neighboring states like Connecticut and Massachusetts.
“Yes, absolutely, we can and we must [wait] because all the proposals are very divergent, ”he said, referring to the Senate bill, a separate chamber and another measure tabled by the governor. “All the proposals that I have seen – in my opinion, and I have only scratched the surface because there are so many – are really coming from very strong advocates of farmers or clinics. I have to look at this and what is good for the state.
“If we’re going to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, we want to make sure the state gets its fair share,” the speaker said.
Shekarchi mentionned there are “several issues” that need to be addressed before the legalization of adult use advances in the House. Mainly, he said, lawmakers need to take a close look at how much revenue the state could collect under the competing proposals.
Social fairness, license fees, labor agreements and home growing arrangements are among the issues that still need to be addressed before the speaker feels comfortable proposing a bill. reform given, he said.
Listen to the speaker discuss the next steps in marijuana reform, starting at around 5:55 p.m. in the audio below:
“If we’re going to legalize this, does that mean people in jail and convicted of possession of marijuana should be automatically screened for possible deregistration?” If we’re creating a whole new industry here, are we reserving one or two of these permits for members of the minority community? ” he said. “These are the issues we need to look at with regard to marijuana, but the main and most important issue is that we want to make sure the state gets its fair share.”
Another major issue that has yet to be resolved is who should regulate the recreational market: the state Department of Business Regulation or an independent cannabis commission.
“I don’t know if there is a combination of the two” that we could agree on, Shekarchi said, adding that “we will have to wait and see where everyone can meet.” It could take place in the fall, as he has already suggested.
“If we can’t [strike a deal], then we won’t, ”he said. “I think you come back when you have productive things to do.”
The new comments come just days after the state Senate approved a legalization bill by Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey (D) and President of Health and Human Services Joshua Miller (D) , which they presented in March. Governor Dan McKee (D) also presented his own legalization proposal soon after.
“It’s important that we move quickly to enact a regulatory framework,” Miller said, noting policy changes in states like Connecticut, where the state governor signed a legalization bill on Tuesday.
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A third Rhode Island legalization measure was also recently tabled on the House side by Rep. Scott Slater (D) and several cosponsors.
The governor, for his part, told reporters this week that while he supported legalization, it was “not one of my highest priorities,” adding that “we are not in the race with Connecticut or Massachusetts on this issue. “
“I think we have to get it right,” he said, pointing to ongoing discussions with the House and the Senate.
The House finance committee discussed the governor’s proposal to end the ban at a hearing in April.
The Speaker of the House recently declared that he considered legalization “inevitable”, but he Told Politico that there are “a lot of urgent issues before us” and it is not sure that the chamber will have time to consider the measure relating to cannabis.
The governor’s and rulers’ legalization plans are particularly different from the proposal former Governor Gina Raimondo (D) included in her budget last year. Before stepping down to join the Biden administration as secretary of commerce, she called for legalization through a state-run model.
McKee gave a first glimpse of his take on reform in January, saying “It’s time for [legalization] happens “and he’s” more inclined to an entrepreneurial strategy out there to let it go that way. “
Shekarchi, meanwhile, said he was “absolutely” open to the idea of legalizing cannabis and also leaned towards privatization.
Late last year, the Senate Finance Committee began a preliminary review of legalization ahead of the 2021 session, with lawmakers generally accepting reform as inevitable. “I certainly think we will act on the issue, whether it is more private or more state-owned,” said at the time Sen. Ryan Pearson (D), who is now chair of the panel.
Meanwhile, the Rhode Island Senate approved a bill in March that would allow safe consumption sites where people could use illicit drugs under medical supervision and be given resources for treatment. Harm reduction advocates say it would prevent overdose deaths and help de-stigmatize substance abuse.
The Senate Judiciary Committee also held a hearing in March on legislation that would end criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of drugs and replace them with a fine of $ 100.
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Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.