States to Watch in 2021: Rhode Island

In advance of the 2021 legislative sessions, NORML will be providing a more detailed break down of legislative efforts in various states across the nation that are poised to enact significant marijuana reforms next year. This is the latest in a series of blogs examining where state-specific reform efforts stand.

State lawmakers held a hearing in November to discuss the prospects of legalizing the adult-use marijuana market in 2021. 

Senator Ryan Pearson (D), the incoming Chairman of the state Senate Finance Committee predicted that lawmakers will formally debate the issue as early as January, saying “I certainly do think we’ll act on the issue, whether it’s more private or more state. I’m optimistic to take this up early in the next session.”

Senate President Dominick Ruggerio (D) went a step further and already instructed the chamber’s majority leader to draft a marijuana legalization bill to be considered in 2021.

In the other chamber, incoming House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi has indicated that members are “very close” to having majority support for legalization and acknowledged that he’s “absolutely” open to the idea. Incoming House Majority Leader Rep. Christopher Blazejewski (D) agreed that it’s “certainly something we’ll take a look at,”

Democratic Governor Gina Raimondo has affirmed that she favors a plan of state-run cannabis retailers, and will once again seek to address the legalization issue in her forthcoming budget proposal, stating: “My view: it is only a matter of time. I think we should do it. Yes, I support the state-run model because from all the work we have done it is the most controlled way to do it, arguably the safest, and the way to maximize state revenue.”

Rhode Island’s legislative session begins on January 5, 2021.

According to statewide polling data, 56 percent of likely voters say that the state should legalize recreational marijuana for those over the age of 21.