The Rhode Island chapters of the ACLU and NAACP, along with a coalition of 10 civil rights and drug policy reform advocacy groups, are demanding state lawmakers enact marijuana legalization before 2022.
The coalition Yes We Cannabis RI said in a statement, they are “urging lawmakers to reach a deal to equitably legalize cannabis for adults in a special legislative session tentatively slated for this fall.”
“The war on cannabis has gone on long enough. Tens of thousands of Rhode Island residents, disproportionately people of color, bear the weight of a criminal record for something that is now legal in both Connecticut and Massachusetts. It is time to stop the harm and repair the damage that has been done here in our state. We urge members of the General Assembly to find common ground and move forward with a plan to equitably legalize cannabis in a special legislative session this year.”
No consensus between legislators and the governor has been reached, but House Speaker Joe Shekarchi said it’s still a “workable” issue.
“I think it’s going well,” said Senate Health & Human Services Chairman Josh Miller.
Rep. Scott Slater said lawmakers are “trying to figure out a reconciliation between my bill, the Senate’s, and the governor’s. I think we can get there before next year. It will not be perfect, and I am sure a work in progress.”
The House, Senate, and governor are still struggling to determine who should have regulatory authority over marijuana. Ruggerio and members of his chamber believe that “a separate commission is the way to go.” However, the House and Gov. Dan McKee want the state Department of Business Regulation to manage the program. Prior to leaving office to join the Biden administration as commerce secretary, former Gov. Gina Raimondo called for legalization through a state-run model.
Senate Finance Committee is generally accepting the reform as an inevitability. “I certainly do think we’ll act on the issue, whether it’s more private or more state,” said Sen. Ryan Pearson, who serves as the panel’s chairman.
In July, the governor signed a historic bill that made Rhode Island the first state to allow safe consumption sites where people could use illicit drugs under medical supervision and receive resources to enter treatment. Harm reduction advocates say this would prevent overdose deaths and help de-stigmatize substance misuse.