A Rhode Island Senate committee on Tuesday held the first hearing on a much-anticipated bill to legalize marijuana in the state. But while activists are eager to end cannabis criminalization, the measure faced pushback over a key provision concerning the proposed process for expunging prior convictions.
The bill from Sen. Joshua Miller (D), which was unveiled earlier this month, was heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee. A companion House version from Rep. Scott Slater (D) has not yet been scheduled for a committee hearing.
This development also comes two months after Gov. Dan McKee (D) included a proposal to end cannabis prohibition as part of his annual budget plan.
Miller, who sponsored an earlier legalization proposal that was approved in the Senate last year, told fellow lawmakers that “observing and incorporating what works best in other states has helped to guide us to what we have before you today.”
Preempting concerns about expungements language that would later be voiced by advocates testifying at the hearing, Miller said “we’ve made our best attempt” to get the provisions right.
“The courts have been involved, the attorney general’s been involved, many of you have been involved,” he said. “And we see this as an ongoing discussion on how expunged or sealed records will proceed forward.”
[email protected] testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding the RI Cannabis Act to legalize and regulate cannabis, a proposal he has championed for many years. pic.twitter.com/5qnoIUUGHu
— Rhode Island Senate (@RISenate) March 15, 2022
The senator also stressed that he is broadly open to feedback on and changes to the bill as it moves through the legislative process.
“Many of the people who contacted me are concerned that their issues wouldn’t be taken seriously going forward,” he said. “And I have consistently said their input is not only important but critical to the process of getting this right so we are in a position to vote on it. I feel strongly that this will result in a better bill.”
The legislation as drafted would create a system of licensed businesses to produce and sell cannabis while allowing adults 21 and older to purchase and possess up to an ounce. They could also grow up to six plants at home, three of which could be mature. The allowable possession limit for marijuana stored in a given household would be maxed out at 10 ounces.
The Senate panel did not vote to advance the legislation at the …….