Marijuana reform outlook: Hopes dim in Rhode Island, but Texas advances

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(MJBizDaily takes a weekly look at marijuana legalization efforts across the U.S. while state legislatures are in session.)

An effort by Rhode Island lawmakers to pass legislation to legalize adult-use marijuana now looks less likely.

But Texas legislators are making progress in approving an overhaul that would significantly expand the state’s limited medical marijuana program by increasing the THC limit and adding new conditions for treatment.

Minnesota recreational marijuana legislation, meanwhile, continues to face an uphill climb in the state Senate.

Rhode Island

House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi said last week he isn’t sure the governor’s plan to legalize recreational marijuana can be fully considered in time for this year’s legislative session, which ends June 30.

The issue is complicated by the fact there are two adult-use legalization bills – one by Gov. Dan McKee and another sponsored by Senate leaders.

“So there’s a lot of uncertainty around it,” Shekarchi told the Providence Journal.

But the Democrat hastened to add that he’s not opposed to legalizing recreational marijuana.

“I don’t want people to get that impression, because I’m not.”

Under Senate Bill 568, licenses would include “craft cultivation” permits with modest application fees.

Under the governor’s plan, regulators would issue 25 retail licenses per year for three years and could establish a license cap in the future. Licenses would be awarded through a lottery system.

Both bills would include provisions to support social equity applicants such as minority businesses.


Adult-use legalization isn’t likely to be pass in Minnesota this year.

One possible reason: The process has been much more circuitous than the typical journey for a piece of legislation.

So far, the House bill has been through 10 committees in that chamber and is headed to a possible precedent-setting full House vote next month, Minnesota Public Radio reported.

But that’s not the biggest stumbling block.

The main issue is resistance in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Despite those dynamics, Ryan Winkler, House majority leader for the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, still exudes optimism, telling Minnesota Public Radio he believes his bill eventually will win bipartisan support.

“We are harming people through our prohibition of cannabis, and it is not a legitimate use of the criminal justice system to do that when large majorities of the public think it should be a safe, legal product,” he said.


The state House approved a medical marijuana expansion bill last week that would usher in major changes to the state’s very limited MMJ program.

The measure would raise the THC cap from 0.5% to 5% and add chronic pain, all types of cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the state’s list of qualifying medical conditions.

The next stop is the state Senate, according to the Texas Tribune.

MJBizDaily doesn’t consider Texas a medical marijuana market at this point, but the current bill could change that.

Under the existing program:

  • The THC level is barely above federally legal hemp.
  • Physician participation is limited.
  • The state has issued only three MMJ licenses, with each licensee allowed one dispensary.

In one of the country’s most populated states, only 4,919 Texans are registered as medical marijuana patients, according to state data as of March.

State to watch:  Medical marijuana legalization in Alabama is expected to come up for a vote in the House before the legislative session ends this month. The vote is expected to be close. The Senate already has passed the measure.

Jeff Smith can be reached at