Two Rhode Island legislators who have been fighting for marijuana legalization in their home state said that they now have enough support in both chambers to legalize the drug. The House and Senate leadership may prevent such a vote from happening, however.
Last year, state Rep. Scott Slater and Sen. Joshua Miller also said that there was enough support to pass legalization, but the bill never came to a vote. Rhode Island legislators have attempted to pass marijuana legalization bills every year since 2011, but none have made it out of committee. This year, however, Miller said that support has grown even further, with 25 out of 75 Representatives and 15 out of 38 Senators sponsoring the bill.
In addition to those who have come out as sponsors, Miller said that there are legislators who "feel it's not necessarily what their focus is, but they feel that if it came to a floor vote, they would support it," Miller said. "That group of people has expanded every year."
Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin has launched an aggressive anti-legalization campaign, which Miller says is spreading misinformation about legalization. "I warned him that the data they're using is inaccurate,” the Senator said. “I feel that his presentations to cities and towns [have] veered off from being totally accurate on what the legislation intends to do."
The current bill would allow cities and towns to block certain kinds of marijuana businesses, essentially allowing towns opposed to marijuana to opt out of the recreational market. Miller said that Kilmartin has failed to accurately explain this feature of the bill while making his anti-legalization presentations. Amy Kempe, Kilmartin's spokesperson, disputed Miller's statement, and said that the opting-out process proposed in the bill would be a “costly and time-consuming process for communities.”