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R.I.’s congressional delegation divided over legalizing marijuana at federal level

Senator Sheldon WhitehouseChip Somodevilla

PROVIDENCE — From covering pivotal hearings and key votes to fund-raisers and political maneuvering, the Globe wants to keep a close eye on what Rhode Island’s congressional delegation is doing here and in Washington.

We’re launching a weekly feature that will hold our leaders accountable and highlight the work of Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Representatives James Langevin and David Cicilline. We’ll also ask each of them to answer a different policy-related question every week.

Do you have a question for Rhode Island’s congressional delegation? E-mail it to Dan.McGowan@globe.com and we’ll consider it in future editions.

Senator Jack Reed


As the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Reed has attended several classified briefings this week that focused on the fallout from the US drone strike that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. Reed has also been a familiar face on cable television to discuss the Iran situation, appearing on CNN with Wolf Blitzer, and MSNBC with both Chris Mathews and Andrea Mitchell. He was critical of President Trump’s threat that future airstrikes could target Iranian cultural sites. Back home in Rhode Island, Reed also announced $2 million in federal funds for the Pascoag Utility District to make water system improvements.

Question of the week: Should marijuana be legalized at the federal level?

“Marijuana legislation at the federal level should be built on a deliberate and evidence-based process, and crafted in a way that protects public health and safety,” Chip Unruh, Reed’s spokesperson,” wrote in an e-mail. “Moreover, the experiences of states that have legalized marijuana should be analyzed and incorporated in any future federal legislation to ensure appropriate protections and a workable regulation framework.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse

Whitehouse turned some heads this week when he was the only Democrat on the Finance Committee to vote against the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement Implementation Act, suggesting it doesn’t do enough to address climate change and could cost Rhode Island residents jobs. The bill has already cleared the House – with the support of Langevin and Cicilline – and is expected to win passage in the Senate in the coming weeks. Whitehouse has also been prolific on Twitter this week, expressing support for Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to hold off sending articles of impeachment to the Senate and concern about the conflict with Iran. He also criticized Mary Neumayr, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, for proposing to water down regulations in the National Environmental Policy Act.


Question of the week: Should marijuana be legalized at the federal level?

“I don’t think this is the time to legalize recreational marijuana at the federal level,” Whitehouse said. “I would like to know more about the long-term effects, particularly on young people, in states where marijuana has been legalized.”

Representative David Cicilline

As Cicilline waits to see if he is tapped for a high-profile role as an impeachment manager for Trump’s Senate trial, he announced his Antitrust Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee has scheduled its fifth hearing on its review of the world’s largest technology companies. The meeting is Jan. 17 at the University of Colorado Law School. He’s also been outspoken on Twitter about Iran, including supporting the House resolution to restrict the president’s use of military force without congressional approval.


Question of the week: Should marijuana be legalized at the federal level?

“The congressman supports decriminalization and descheduling marijuana at the federal level so that individual states can set policies as they see fit,” spokesperson Richard Luchette wrote in an e-mail. “He is a cosponsor of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act that achieves those objectives and helps folks who have been convicted of minor marijuana offenses get a fresh start.”

Representative James Langevin

In addition getting briefed on Iran, Langevin attended a meeting for the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, an obscure committee that is expected to release a set of recommendations on a national strategy around cybersecurity. He’ll be back in Rhode Island this weekend to give remarks at the FIRST LEGO League State Championship at Roger Williams University.

Question of the week: Should marijuana be legalized at the federal level?

“Congressman Langevin has expressed his support for states that have implemented local laws for medical marijuana use and has voted for legislation that safeguards these policies from federal interference,” spokesperson Victor Morente wrote in an e-mail. “With limited research on the health and social impacts of recreational use, the congressman is not in support of federally legalizing marijuana for non-medical uses at this time.”

Dan McGowan can be reached at dan.mcgowan@globe.com. Follow him @danmcgowan.