Roughly 18,000, that’s the number of Rhode Islanders currently enrolled in the state’s medical marijuana program. Members of a new recreational marijuana study commission got an update on that program Tuesday, as they consider whether the state should legalize recreational pot. This was the group's second meeting.
Commission members hope to study the rollout of recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington State. And there’s a particular reason to do that now. Rhode Island neighbors Massachusetts and Maine are getting ready to enact similar policies.
Members of the study commission heard from representatives from the State Health Department and the Department of Business Regulation.
Norman Birenbaum, a policy analyst with the Department of Business Regulation raised concerns about a black market for medical marijuana in the state. He said the state has attempted to tamp down on such a market with legislation enacted last year.
Members of the commission raised questions about driving while under the influence of marijuana. Representatives from the department of health conceded that field sobriety tests for the effects of marijuana remain imprecise.
State Senator Josh Miller, who sits on the committee, is a proponent of legal marijuana. He says the state’s medical marijuana policy lays a good ground work for a recreational policy.
“I think Rhode Island’s in a good position,” said Miller. “They understand the concerns and they have a good structure that I think could probably be expanded if the legislature or the voters decided to expand to recreational.”
Maine and Massachusetts have legalized recreational marijuana and are preparing to implement their policies. The marijuana study commission is set to meet again in December, and provide recommendations to the state next spring.