RI: Marijuana Legalization Headed For A Study Commission; Vote Wednesday

Ron Strider

Well-Known Member
Marijuana legalization in Rhode Island appears to be headed to a study commission, severely minimizing the chances that lawmakers will take any other action on the issue this year.

The House is expected to vote some time after 4 p.m. Wednesday on a bill creating a 17-member panel to "conduct a comprehensive review and make recommendations regarding marijuana and the effects of its use." The study commission will have until March 1, 2018 to report its findings to the General Assembly -- ostensibly leaving the issue in play for next year's legislative session.

The bill sponsored by retired police officer Rep. Dennis Canario, D-Portsmouth, has the backing of Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin, a strong opponent of legalization, and Smart Approaches to Marijuana, an organization that fights legalization efforts across the country.

The bill mandates the following makeup of the study commission: three senators (no more than two from the same political party); three representatives (no more than two from the same political party), a representative from Smart Approaches to Marijuana "or a similar organization;" the president of the Substance Use Mental Health Council of RI; a member of an organization that is a proponent for legalization; the executive director of the Rhode Island Medical Society; a member of a local chamber of commerce; the director of the state Department of Health; the president of the Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association; the attorney general; a representative of medical marijuana patients; an educator; and a mental health professional.

Roughly half of the appointments would be made by the House speaker, and half would be made by the Senate president.

Proponents of marijuana legalization have called the study commission a delay tactic. Sen. Joshua Miller, D-Cranston, who a sponsor of the marijuana legalization effort in the Senate has argued that the General Assembly has already studied the issue extensively. He served as the chair of a Senate commission charged with "studying the prohibition of marijuana" in 2009. The commission's report issued in March 2010 eventually led to the decriminalization of marijuana in Rhode Island.


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