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Rhode Island Cannabis Commission Will Likely Delay Recreational Legalization Until 2018

The new commission aims to study the ramifications of legalization before moving forward.

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The Rhode Island Senate just approved a bill to create a 19-member joint legislative commission to study the ramifications of legalizing recreational marijuana in the state. The commission is required to report its findings to the General Assembly on or before March 1st of 2018, and the commission will subsequently be disbanded on July 1st, 2018. Although this does mean that state legislators are seriously considering legalization, it also means that legalization is almost certainly off the table for 2017.

“Based on my experience as a retired State Police lieutenant and a mom of four children, I understand that legalization of marijuana for recreational use could have serious public safety, public health and societal ramifications,” said state Sen. Cynthia Coyne, sponsor of the bill. “It is imperative that we thoughtfully consider the unintended consequences and take notice from lessons learned in Colorado and Washington. We should take full advantage of other states’ experiences and learn about whether we should follow in their footsteps or perhaps take a different approach to avoid any problems they may have encountered.”

“The purpose of said Commission shall be to conduct a comprehensive review and make recommendations regarding marijuana and the effects of its use on the residents of Colorado and Washington to the extent available, and to study the fiscal impact to those states; and thereafter the potential impact on Rhode Island,” the bill reads.

The commission will consist of three members of each legislative chamber, officials or delegates from state mental health and medical programs, the President of the RI Police Chief's Association or a designee, as well as a designee of the state Attorney General's office. The committee will also include a member of a pro-legalization organization, a member representing medical marijuana patients, a criminal defense attorney, and the President of the local AFL-CIO.

The bill will return to the House, which has already passed an identical bill, and then will be sent to Governor Gina Raimondo for his signature.

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