Adult-use cannabis legislation is set for committee votes this week in Rhode Island, the Providence Journal reports. The bills have not yet been made public but previous versions would allow up to 33 retail licenses distributed through six zones, including the state’s current nine medical cannabis dispensaries.
While Democratic Gov. Dan McKee supports the reforms, his Executive Counsel Clair Richards has raised constitutional concerns over provisions in the previous proposal about how members of the three-member cannabis control commission would be appointed and removed. Under the state’s constitution, the governor has the sole power to appoint “all members of any commission” but the bill calls for the House Speaker and Senate President to provide nominees to the governor and requires Senate approval to remove them.
“Such pervasive control by the legislature impermissibly enlarges its constitutional role at the expense of the executive.” – Richards in a letter to lawmakers via the Journal
In a joint statement, a spokesman for the House and Senate defended those provisions, arguing the bill and its appointment processes “is consistent with Rhode Island’s separation-of-powers principles and the law flowing from the Rhode Island Supreme Court.” The statement pointed to the state’s Redevelopment District Commission and Judicial Nominating Commission as evidence of the process’s constitutionality.
McKee ascended to the governorship after Gina Raimondo joined the administration of President Joe Biden (D) as commerce secretary. Raimondo had been a proponent of legalization as governor and had included it in her 2020 Executive Budget, but was rebuffed by lawmakers. McKee supports a system of privately-run dispensaries, which contrasts with Raimondo who backed a plan for state-run cannabis shops.
Lawmakers are putting the finishing touches on the bills before they will be made public and head to committees.
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