Last week, A top Rhode Island official stated that a measure to legalize cannabis in the Ocean State is nearly at its end, with just a single primary condition left to settle following months of debate—and that the official anticipates the matter to be determined early in 2022.
House Speaker Joe Shekarchi (D-RI) told a Rhode Island news outlet that while administrators are “still not [certain]” on a final product, he’s “[estatic] to reveal that we’ve operated down to almost one problem that [remains], but it’s not [final] yet.” That problem relates to who should govern the cannabis market in Rhode Island—a new independent committee or the state Department of Business Regulation, also known as the DBR.
The House speaker, who previously stated that he’d be receptive to a deal on the issue of who should regulate the cannabis market in Rhode Island, hovered the thought that there could virtually be “some fusion thereof or some hybrid understanding of [the issue of market regulation].”
Top legislators have been in discussions all year long to harmonize competing cannabis legalization proposals that have been brought to the attention by the House, Senate, and the Rhode Island Gov. office—and at one point prepared to a fall special legislative session to pass the resulting deal, but that hasn’t occurred.
“I have another [engagement] next week. I hope to wrap [the cannabis matter] up,” Shekarchi stated in the fresh interview, annexing that “I expect you’ll witness that [final measure] in the first quarter of next year.”
“We’re examining other cannabis-friendly states. But the cannabis bill, in general, is a very complex piece of lawmaking,” he stated. “People just state ‘legalize it.’ It touches a slew of dissimilar areas of the legal process. It encompasses taxation. We have to assure that we’re doing [cannabis legalization in Rhode Island] right.”
He also stated that legislators are “in talks about some type of expungement procedure that would be built into the measure as well—so it’s a complete bill. It’s a very hearty measure. And it’s in a lot of different areas of law, and I want to make sure we do it right.”
Senator Josh Miller (D-RI), the sponsor of one cannabis legalization measure supported in the Senate earlier this year, likewise stated in October that compliance responsibility remained a focal point in discussions.
It seems that another unique issue related to how many cannabis business licenses should be authorized been settled, given the speaker’s new comments. Miller’s bill proposed as many as 140+ cannabis marts, whereas Gov. Dan McKee’s (D) program called for 25, and Rep. Scott Slater (D) desired simply 15 in a different House bill.
Mediators also reached an understanding to place a temporary suspension on approving additional cannabis grower licenses. Some citizens have protested counting cultivators beyond the existing medicinal cannabis licensees due to there already being a satisfactory supply to meet demand in the adult-use cannabis market.
Despite this, the regulatory authority still needs to be figured out.
Some lawmakers like Miller want to install an independent cannabis agency, whereas others feel the recreational cannabis market should be governed by the DBR, which currently manages Rhode Island’s medicinal cannabis program.
Senate President Dominick Ruggerio (D), for his portion, stated earlier this summer that legislators are “extremely close” to reaching a deal on a cannabis legalization measure.
“We dispatched cannabis legislation—which we believe is a very good piece of cannabis legislation—over to the House before we left earlier this summer,” the senator stated, calling back to the cannabis legalization bill that his chamber supported back in June. “They are working on that measure with some of the House folks at this point.”