Top state officials support study commission, delay marijuana legalization


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Members of Gov. Gina Raimondo’s administration are backing a commission to further study the issue of legalizing recreational marijuana, which would delay its passing in Rhode Island.

Gov. Raimondo previously said she is open to the possibility of legalizing recreational marijuana, but she has some reservations.

Three top officials with the Raimondo administration sent a letter to the House Judiciary Committee last week expressing their concerns about the legalization. In the letter, they said they support creating a study commission on the issue.

But, legalization advocates say the commission would only delay the inevitable.

“The public is behind it. Massachusetts is moving forward. We don’t think a study commission is necessary because we already have the data,” Jared Moffat, of Regulate RI, said.

The study commission would consist of a 15-member panel, which would report its findings to the General Assembly by March 2018.

Massachusetts retail shops will begin selling marijuana in July 2018. Moffat said delaying legalization in the Ocean State will result in sending jobs and revenue to the Bay State.

“Legalizing is going to help our economy,” he said. “It’s going to create jobs and investment to the state.”

In the letter, R.I. officials said “some states have been more successful than others in allowing recreational marijuana while minimizing negative impacts.”

The letter also goes on to say, “following legalization in other states, we have a wealth of new information on legalization’s impact on traffic fatalities, youth usage of marijuana, accidental exposure, and visits to the emergency department.”

Moffat said Regulate RI is more than willing to work with Gov. Raimondo on this piece of legislation, but he does not want to wait any longer to legalize.

“59 percent of Rhode Island voters want this policy to happen,” he said. “So, we’re going to continue to make our case and hopefully get it through this year.”

In a statement, Gov. Raimondo’s office said “The Governor’s primary concerns are safety and proper regulation, and she will give strong consideration to legalization legislation that adequately addresses these concerns, whether a bill reaches her desk this year or in the future.”