The theme so far this year, in terms of attempts to push through measures that could legalize the recreational use of cannabis in a state, is for Senate or House of Representative members to push a referendum through Congress that places a question on the ballot for voters to approve. Many states do not allow people to collect signatures to have a question added to the ballot, therefore it is up to legislators to either vote on the legalization of cannabis or to place a referendum question on the ballot for voters to choose. Rhode Island is the newest state where a measure has begun to move its way through Congress that would allow voters of the tiny state to decide if adult-use cannabis is right for them.
New Hampshire has already had its House of Representatives approve marijuana legalization. If the rest of New Hampshire’s Congress and the governor signs off on it, then New Hampshire would become the second state, besides its neighbor Vermont, to have legislators approved the legalization of cannabis. If Rhode Island voters get the chance to vote and approve marijuana legalization this fall, then all of New England could have legal recreational marijuana by the end of 2018. Massachusetts and Maine have already legalized recreational cannabis although Maine is still trying to figure out its rules.
Under a new bill filed in the state House of Representatives on Wednesday, Rhode Islanders would be able to decide on a ballot measure calling for the end of cannabis prohibition.
The proposal, filed by Rep. Scott Slater (D), would not automatically result in legalization if a majority of voters approved the question on Election Day. Rhode Island law allows only for nonbinding advisory statutory referendums, but a solid “yes” vote would likely spur lawmakers into more seriously considering cannabis legislation when they reconvene for the 2019 session.
In Rhode Island, Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) is not opposed to legalization but wants lawmakers to carefully consider its implementation before moving ahead. In 2016, she said she is “open to” giving voters a chance to weigh in on the issue through a referendum.
Besides New England states, many other states are proactively working on legalizing cannabis, most of them engaged in the referendum approach. New Mexico, Illinois, Nebraska, Maryland, Arizona, Georgia, Minnesota and Wisconsin all have measures working their way through their state’s Congress that could place a question on the ballot for voters to decide later this year. Do you think that lawmakers in part do not want to simply vote and approve recreational marijuana because they do not want the responsibility of the decision?