Rhode Island governor, legislative leaders disagree over medical cannabis rules

Published on January 9, 2020 · Last updated July 28, 2020
Rhode Island legislators struggle to resolve medical cannabis policy among political infighting. (Bokasana, lambada/iStock)

Legislative leaders in Rhode Island said Wednesday they’re working to undo a change to how medical cannabis dispensaries are regulated, to address a lawsuit by the governor.

A provision in the state budget approved last year gave lawmakers the right to veto regulations imposed on the industry. Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo sued, arguing the new law violates the state constitution’s separation of powers clause because it gives lawmakers “unchecked control” over executive rulemaking authority.

Democratic House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio said Wednesday they’re filing legislation to repeal the language that required lawmakers to approve rules and regulations relating to the expansion of licenses for medical cannabis dispensaries.

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However, they still took issue with how the Department of Business Regulation proposed regulations for dispensaries, with Mattiello calling it “blatant overreach by the executive branch.”

The legislation not only removes the controversial provision, but also imposes limits on regulators. Among them, regulators would be barred from limiting dispensaries based on geographical zones and from preventing any center from growing its own supply of medical cannabis or limiting the number of plants.

Lawmakers authorized six new medical dispensaries last year, for a total of nine.

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