Rhode Island lawmakers this week began considering a plan that would legalize marijuana in the state, returning to a proposal put forward by Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) back in January, before the coronavirus pandemic began.
The governor’s recommendation, offered through her annual budget, would keep the legal cannabis industry under government control, with state-run shops and a ban on home cultivation. While several lawmakers expressed skepticism about a state-run industry during a Wednesday hearing, members generally acknowledged that momentum is building toward legalization in one form or another.
“I certainly do think we’ll act on the issue, whether it’s more private or more state,” Sen. Ryan Pearson (D) told local television station WPRI. “I’m optimistic to take this up early in the next session.”
Pearson is the incoming chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which considered the legalization proposal at the hearing. He predicted the committee will formally take up the idea of marijuana legalization in January instead of waiting until June to put the measure in the 2021–22 budget.
Watch the committee discuss marijuana legalization, around 25:30 into the video below:
Raimondo’s legalization proposal was originally included in her pre-pandemic budget plan, but the General Assembly never passed spending legislation for the current fiscal year and instead the state has continued operating at current funding levels.
Earlier this week, incoming House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi (D) said he’s “absolutely” open to the idea of cannabis legalization, adding that the House is “very close” to having majority support for the policy change.