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Mattiello commits to ‘look at’ marijuana legalization next year

CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Shortly after his Democratic colleagues re-elected him as Speaker of the House, Speaker Nicholas Mattiello reaffirmed that the Rhode Island General Assembly will need to consider marijuana legalization, now that Massachusetts voters have approved a referendum to tax and regulate the drug there.

“Now that they’ve passed it, we have to take a look at it,” he told reporters shortly after he received the nod from his colleagues for two more years as House Speaker.

Mattiello stopped short of supporting legalization, saying he’s made “no determinations, no decisions,” but said it was necessary to look at the issue because of the decision made in Massachusetts.

“It’s going to be readily accessible by our citizens,” Mattiello said. “We’re going to have a lot of concerns that marijuana creates right here in Rhode Island, right here on our border, with none of the revenues to help us address that.”

Mattiello has consistently said he doesn’t support marijuana legalization, but that Rhode Island would need to address the issue if it was legalized in Massachusetts.

It was up in the air until Thursday evening whether Mattiello would be returning to the state house, after his Cranston re-election race was too close to call on election night. He won by 65 votes, according to the unofficial Board of Elections tally on Thursday.

Mattiello also said he plans to focus on the economy, jobs and car tax relief in the upcoming legislative session beginning in January.

Gov. Gina Raimondo advocated for a “slow and steady” approach to the marijuana issue following the Massachusetts vote, adding that she wanted to include police, teachers and even employers in the conversation.

Marijuana possession becomes legal in Massachusetts on December 15.