Gov McKee criticizes bill structure to legalize cannabis

Rhode Island legalization bill scrutinized by McKee administration

The recently unveiled bill to legalize cannabis in Rhode Island had its first hearing this week. Claire Richards, legal counsel for Governor McKee, and a member of his cabinet, Department of Business Regulation Director Elizabeth Tanner both shared criticism with lawmakers. Governor McKee supports marijuana legalization but isn’t a fan of the language in the bill that would give Senate and House leaders power over who is appointed to the Cannabis Commission.

All three members of the Cannabis Commission are appointed by the Governor and are subject to Senate confirmation. One Commissioner must come from a list by the House speaker, and another from a list by the Senate president. The bill also stipulates that Commissioners can only be relieved of their duties by the Senate.

The Governor’s legal counsel said such a structure would violate the Governor’s power within the Rhode Island constitution to appoint Commissioners to a seat that holds executive power. The nuances of how a cannabis regulatory agency will be established has become the main issue that lawmakers have yet to agree on.

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