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Legal Pot Definitely Maybe in Rhode Island

Despite general optimism about legalization, lawmakers haven't been able to make much progress when it comes to pot.

Photo via Pixabay

Rhode Island lawmakers continue to refer to legalization of recreational marijuana as “inevitable.” However, they also continue to not advance an adult-use bill. 

So far, Gov. Dan McKee and Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey have both introduced competing legalization proposals. Those proposals continue to be weighed by legislators who generally sound optimistic. But recently, House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi told reporters that neither proponents nor opponents of legal weed are happy with the two bills.

According to Shekarchi, “there’s a lot of uncertainty around it.” And even worse, the speaker doesn’t believe that legalization will happen this year.

Don’t get Shekarchi wrong. “It’s going to happen.” He’s just not sure exactly when. Pressed on the issue, the speaker said, “I think it is about a 50-50 shot [of legalization passing this year] … There are a lot of issues on the table.”

Senate President Dominick Ruggerio also refers to legalization in Rhode Island as “inevitable.” However, when pressed, Ruggerio said, “Do we need to pass it this year? Not necessarily, but I think we have worked pretty hard on this … The House doesn’t really have a plan at this point in time so we will see where it goes.”

Complicating things further, another lawmaker introduced another Cannabis bill. The latest, a House bill, is from Rep. Scott Slater. And while it is not an adult-use legalization bill, Slater claims his measure would establish a “de facto recreational program.” Essentially, the bill relaxes regulations in the state’s medical Cannabis program, allows more conditions to qualify for medical pot and increases patient possession limits to 16 ounces.

As for the recreational measures being considered, Sen. Ruggerio says, “At least get something in the form of legislation so we can take a look at it, yes or no.” 

With time running out on the legislative session, hopefully he gets his wish.