A top Rhode Island lawmaker said Thursday that a bill to legalize marijuana in the ocean state is nearing completion, with only one key provision left to resolve the issue after months of negotiations — and that he expects the issue to be resolved early in the new year.
House Speaker Joe Chicarchi (Democrat) told WPRI-TV that while lawmakers are “still not there” on the final product, he is “happy to report that we’ve worked on nearly one remaining issue, but it hasn’t materialized yet.” This question concerns who should regulate the cannabis market – a new independent commission or the State Department for Business Regulation (DBR).
The speaker, who previously said he would be open to a compromise on the question of who should regulate the market, brought up the idea that there could eventually be a “mix of it or a hybrid version of it.”
Top lawmakers have been in talks for months to reconcile competing legislation proposals put forward by the House, Senate and the governor’s office — and at one point a special session was planned for the fall to enact the resulting agreement, but that didn’t happen.
“I have another meeting next week. I hope to finish it,” Shkarji said in the new interview [final bill] in the first quarter of 2022.”
Watch Shekarchi talk about the state of negotiations over the marijuana legalization law in the video below:
“We are studying other countries. But marijuana law in general is very complex legislation.” “People just say ‘legitimize.’ It touches very different areas of the law. It touches on taxes. We have to make sure we do it right.”
He also said that lawmakers “are talking about some kind of write-off that would be included in the bill as well — so it’s a very comprehensive bill. A very thick bill. And it’s in a lot of different areas of the law, and I want to make sure we’re doing it right.”
“I’ve always said, ‘I don’t necessarily want to be the first, I want to be the best.'”
Senator Josh Miller (D), sponsor of one legalization proposal That was approved in the Senate earlier this yearSimilarly, in October, regulatory responsibility remains a sticking point in negotiations.
Another outstanding issue related to the number of commercial marijuana licenses to be approved appears to have been resolved, given the speaker’s new comments. Bill Miller proposed as many as 150 cannabis stores, While Governor Dan Mackey’s plan (D) He called for 25 and Representative Scott Slater (D) wanted just 15 on the separate House bill.
negotiators He also recently reached an agreement To impose a temporary moratorium on the approval of additional licenses to grow cannabis. Some have protested the addition of growers other than the current licensees of medical marijuana because they say there is already enough supply to meet demand in the adult use market.
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But the regulatory authority still needs to be dismantled.
Some like Miller want an independent cannabis commission set up, while others feel the recreational market should be overseen by DBR, which currently regulates the Rhode Island Medical Marijuana Program.
For his part, Senate President Dominic Rogerio (Democrat) said last September Lawmakers ‘very close’ to reaching an agreement On the marijuana legalization bill.
“We sent legislation — we think it’s very good legislation — to the House before we left in June,” the senator said, referring to the legalization bill that his House approved in June. “They are working on this legislation with some members of the House of Representatives at this time.”
What remains is whether the bill negotiating legalization that was eventually passed will satisfy advocates and progressive lawmakers, some of whom have. Rally behind an agenda for reform That emphasizes the need for bold social justice provisions.
While every competing bill contains ingredients intended to address the harms of decriminalizing marijuana, the coalition led by Reclaim Rhode Island says it’s not enough. Advocates and supportive lawmakers have set out specific provisions they want to see incorporated, such as disqualifying half of the cannabis business licenses for the communities most affected by the ban.
“We can’t reverse the damage from the War on Drugs, but we can start to fix it by passing automatic write-offs and waiving all related fines, fees and court debts,” Rep. September. “This bold plan of legislation gives us the opportunity to turn a new page on the Ocean State, and it is time for us to take it.”
Rogerio, for his part, said he feels the legalization bill approved in the Senate contains “very strong social justice provisions” and that the exclusion clause is “as close to automatic as it is practical.”
Reclaim Rhode Island isn’t the only group pushing lawmakers to act quickly to pass legalization. It’s part of a coalition of 10 advocacy groups for civil rights and drug policy reform — including the Rhode Island chapters of the ACLU and NAACP — that have recently called for the following Lawmakers push ahead with marijuana reform age in the state before the end of 2021.
Shkarji said in July that while there is no consensus yet among lawmakers and the governor on a deal to legalize marijuana, The problem is still ‘Applicable’ and will be given priority If lawmakers hold a special session this fall.
Slater recently told Marijuana Moment that “things are still the same” before the end of the hearing — but lawmakers “are trying to figure out Reconciliation of my billsThe Senate and the Governor.”
The representative said the meetings held over the summer were “mostly informal”. “I think we can get there before next year. It won’t be perfect, and I’m sure the work is in progress.”
Ruggerio said in July that he Not disappointed the House of Representatives did not introduce legalization legislation So now that “what we really wanted to do was send him in and have them take a look at him” when his room passed the cannabis fix.
Shikarji on his part said that earlier He feels that reform is “inevitable”.
Senate Majority Leader Mike McCaffrey (D) was also recently asked about provisions for allowing local municipalities to choose not to allow marijuana businesses to operate in their area. “Once the legislation is passed and whatever form is passed, communities have the opportunity to opt out,” he said.
“They have an opportunity to withdraw if the community does not want to participate in it,” he said. “That’s their decision – however, they don’t get the money that might come from sales in this community.”
The majority leader also pointed out that neighboring countries like Connecticut and Massachusetts Cents legalization, This adds impetus to the legislator to pursue reform in the state.
Meanwhile, Skarchy said in July he had no intention of letting regional pressure dictate the timetable when Rhode Island enacts a policy change. The spokesperson said social justice, licensing fees, work agreements and home growth provisions are among the outstanding issues that must be addressed.
The Finance Committee of the House of Representatives Held a hearing on the Slater legalization procedure in June.
The governor previously told reporters that while he supports legalization, it “is not as one of my highest priorities,” adding, “We are not in a race with Connecticut or Massachusetts on this issue.”
“I think we need to get it right,” he said, referring to ongoing discussions with the House and Senate.
The House of Representatives Finance Committee discussed the governor’s proposal to end the ban At a previous hearing in April.
The plans to legitimize the ruler and leaders differ markedly from the proposal that former Governor Gina Raimondo (Democrat) included in her budget last year. Before that Leave office to join Biden administration As Minister of Commerce Called for legalization through a state-run model.
Mackie provided initial insights into his view on reform in January, saying “It’s time for it [legalization] Happens “and it” more Leaning towards entrepreneurial strategy There to allow it to be this way.”
Meanwhile, Shkarji said that Totally open to the idea of legalizing cannabis It also tends towards privatization.
Late last year, the Senate Finance Committee Initial consideration of certification has begun In preparation for the 2021 cycle, when lawmakers generally accept reform as an imperative. “I definitely think we’re going to take action on this issue, whether it’s more private or more private,” Senator Ryan Pearson (D), who is now the committee chair, said at the time.
Meanwhile, governor in July Signing a historical invoice to allow safe consumption sites Where people can use illegal drugs under medical supervision and receive the resources needed to go into treatment. Harm reduction advocates say this would prevent overdose deaths and help remove the stigma of substance abuse. Rhode Island is the first state to allow these facilities.
The Senate Judiciary Committee also held a hearing in March on legislation that would End criminal penalties for possession of small quantities of drugs and replaced with a $100 fine.