Rhode Island grappling with model for adult-use marijuana legalization

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Lawmakers in Rhode Island met this week to begin debate on how – not if – they will legalize adult-use recreational marijuana in 2021, but a consensus appears a long ways off.

According to East Providence TV station WPRI, one of the fundamental questions is whether the state will establish a government-run industry – which Gov. Gina Raimondo has proposed – or allow private industry to take the lead.

Neither model has gained a clear upper hand among lawmakers, WPRI reported.

But members of the state Senate Finance Committee met Wednesday to discuss the matter and to begin hammering out details for a bill to legalize adult-use marijuana in 2021.

And the incoming chair of the committee, Sen. Ryan Pearson, told reporters he fully expects the issue to arise in January when the Legislature convenes.

“I certainly do think we will act on the issue, whether it’s more private or whether it’s more state,” Pearson said.

No states that have recreational marijuana industries are run by their respective state governments.

But Louisiana’s medical marijuana program is run by universities – which are the only allowed cultivators – and licensed pharmacies, which are the only approved retailers.