Rhode Island Senate Committee Unanimously Approves Medical Cannabis Measure

Providence, RI: The Rhode Island Senate Committee on Health and Human Services unanimously approved Senate Bill 2693 Wednesday. S 2693, along with its companion bill, House Bill 7888, would regulate the distribution of medical marijuana by allowing a non-profit state-licensed facility to provide medical marijuana to Rhode Island's licensed patients. Earlier in the week, the committee heard testimony in favor of the bill from state-licensed patient Buddy Coolen of Warwick, who was recently robbed at gunpoint while attempting to obtain the cannabis he is permitted under state law.

Meanwhile, the Rhode Island House Health, Education, and Welfare Committee held a hearing, but took no action on House Bill 7888 on Tuesday.

While the Senate version was approved overwhelmingly in committee, the reception was decidedly cooler on the House side. Chairman Joseph McNamara (D) said that he "didn’t see a lot of general support for this legislation at this time," while chief sponsor Rep. Thomas Slater (D) said that as a compromise, the creation of a commission to study the problem was likely, with an emphasis on passing legislation next session based on its recommendations.

Governor Carcieri vetoed the initial legislation to create a medical cannabis statute in Rhode Island, which was overridden by the legislature. The Democrat-dominated legislature has regularly overridden the Governor’s anti-medical cannabis veto in the past.

If both the House and the Senate pass different versions of the bills, a conference committee will have to come up with a compromise bill. Given that any bill will likely need the votes to override a veto, it is likely that the final bill would be similar to the House version.

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