On The Governor’s Desk: Health, Education, and Marijuana Bills

Jun 30, 2017

A slew of bills heads for Gov. Gina Raimondo’s signature as the General Assembly nears the end of the legislative session. Here’s a brief list of what’s on the table.

Recreational Marijuana

A 19-member commission would study policies in Washington and Colorado, where recreational marijuana is already legal. Massachusetts is expected to legalize recreational marijuana next year. If that happens, the Ocean State will have little power to keep residents from purchasing legal pot just over the border.

The study commission would have three members from each chamber of the General Assembly. It would also consist of members from marijuana advocacy groups, state educators, and state health officials.

(Senate, House, Story)

Hospital Conversions

This proposal would expedite the merger between Memorial Hospital in Pawtucket and California-based Prime Healthcare. Memorial Hospital is part of hospital chain Care New England. Care New England plans to drop the hospital when the group merges with Partners Healthcare of Boston. Care New England is one of Rhode Island’s largest hospital operators. It owns Memorial Hospital. Both Care New England and Memorial have been struggling financially.

(Senate, House, Story


Doctors could soon be required to discuss the risk of addiction with patients when prescribing opioid medications.


Women who’ve undergone harsh medical treatment that could affect their fertility -- like chemotherapy—could get fertility preservation covered by insurance. 

The legislation would require health insurers to cover up to $100,000 dollars in fertility preservation for these patients if they’re between the ages of 25 and 42. Women would be covered regardless of marital status.

(Senate, House)


The bill would allow teachers to assign coursework electronically, or send students home with hard copies of work, during snow days. School districts would be given the choice to participate. Any curriculum would require approval by the State Council on Elementary and Secondary Education. 


Schools could soon be required to cover drug abuse and suicide prevention in health classes from grades 1-12.

Under this measure, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals would collaborate on the curriculum.

(Senate, House)

Fentanyl Punishment

This legislation would punish the manufacture and sale of the synthetic opioid fentanyl, the way it does heroin and cocaine. Anyone possessing more than a kilogram of fentanyl could receive a maximum life prison sentence and $1 million fine.

Currently, any amount of fentanyl possession can garner a maximum sentence of three years in prison and $5,000. 

(Senate, House)

Human Trafficking

Rhode Island could join eight other states in enacting the Uniform Act on Prevention of and Remedies for Human Trafficking. The national standard for punishing human trafficking was drafted by the nonprofit Uniform Law Commission.

The measure calls for victims of trafficking to get compensation through the criminal injuries compensation act regardless of immigration status.

Participating in the sex trafficking of a minor could also be punishable by a maximum 20 years in prison and fine of $20,000. Trafficking of a minor could result in a maximum 50 years in prison and $40,000. (Senate, House)


Veterans who own small-businesses could soon get preference in state government contracts. The bill sets a 3 percent, total-value goal of state contracts awarded to veterans. A similar goal already exists for state contracts going to women and minority owned businesses.

(Senate, House)


The time it takes for major development and subdivision applications to be verified is on its way to being cut. The legislation gives municipalities 25 days to verify a preliminary plan for development. Currently, a municipality has 60 days. Once an application is complete, a municipality will have 90 days, instead of 120, to either approve or deny the plan.

(Senate, House)