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The Rhode Island House Speaker says lawmakers are “very close” to introducing a bicameral negotiated bill to legalize marijuana, and a prominent Senate leader said he is optimistic it will pass “by an overwhelming majority” in both houses when brought to a vote at the time. early 2022.

Lawmakers have been in talks for months to reconcile competing legislative proposals presented by the House, Senate and the governor’s office. Negotiations have been fruitful, and the draft legislation will be presented within weeks, “in January,” House Speaker Joseph Shirkari (Democrat) told Providence Business News.

Introducing the bill, he said, “will begin a robust public hearing and scrutiny process.” But the plan appears to be to wrap up legislative action quickly, with Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey (D) saying the goal is to get the measure approved in both the House and Senate by February.

While lawmakers have made progress in reaching agreements on various provisions that prevented legislation from being enacted in 2021, the main sticking point is who should be responsible for regulating the cannabis program.

“The Senate wants to have a separate, independent commission to regulate the cannabis industry,” McCaffrey said, while the House wants the state Department of Business Regulation (DBR) to take on that responsibility.

“We have worked with Parliament on a language that we hope everyone can live with,” he said.

Shikarji, for his part, said earlier this month that he would be open to a compromise on this matter

Another outstanding issue related to the number of commercial marijuana licenses to be approved appears to have been resolved, given the speaker’s recent 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.

 

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.

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 said he feels that 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.”

As he said in July that 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.

A coalition of 10 advocacy groups for drug policy reform and civil rights—including the Rhode Island chapters of the ACLU and the NAACP—recently called for the following Lawmakers push ahead with marijuana reform age in the state before the end of 2021.

Lawmakers noted 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 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 certainly 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.

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