Delay in commission appointment process set to stall new cannabis retailers

LAW-LAYING: State Senator Joshua Miller, D-Cranston, second from right, discusses a new Rhode Island law legalizing the recreational use of marijuana and its retail sales. Also on one of two panels at Providence Business News’ 2022 Business of Cannabis Summit on Sept. 15 are, from left, Matthew Santacroce, Acting Director of RI’s Department of Business Regulation; and Benjamin L. Rackliffe, partner at Pannone Lopes Devereaux and O’Gara LLC. PBN PHOTO/MIKE SKORSKI

PROVIDENCE — Although regulated sales of recreational cannabis are set to begin in Rhode Island on Dec. 1, for some looking to enter the Ocean State market, one element of the establishment process is still missing: the Commission of state cannabis control, which is currently vacant.

Under the RI Cannabis Actwhich Governor Daniel J. McKee signed into law on May 25, the Cannabis Control Commission is an independent, three-member body that oversees “the regulation, licensing and control of adult use and cannabis medical “.

The legislation also provides for the formation of a 19-person advisory council made up of appointees and public officials to work with and provide recommendations to the Cannabis Control Commission.

The legislation gives the governor 40 days to appoint members of the Cannabis Control Commission, following recommendations from the Speaker of the House within 30 days of the legislation being passed. With that deadline already passed, McKee won’t be booking an appointment until the new year, according to a spokesperson for his office.

“The Governor’s three appointments to this committee are subject to the advice and consent of the Senate,” Sheaff said, “and the Governor intends to submit names to the Senate early in the next session so that they can go through the A&C process quickly.”

McKee then plans to appoint members of the advisory board “soon after the [commission] is established,” Sheaff said, as did the Speaker of the Senate and the Speaker of the House.

Matt Santacroce, head of RI’s Office of Cannabis Regulation, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. RI Commerce Corp. spokeswoman Jennifer McGee declined to address the cause of the delay, referring to Sheaff’s statement.

But the missed deadline could mean a headache for new companies looking to enter the state’s retail cannabis industry, said Benjamin L. Rackliffe, partner at Pannone Lopes Devereaux & O’Gara LLC.

“There is a slow rollout associated with this process, and the keystone to advancing adult use and expanding to additional licensing beyond the medical market rests entirely with the Review Board cannabis,” Rackliffe said.

Rackliffe expects this deployment process to take at least six months, if the state acts aggressively, or up to a year. Not only does McKee need to make the appointments, but other regulatory measures, such as establishment an application structure and other final regulations may also delay the process.

“Until all these things happen, it will only be compassionate centers that hold a hybrid license and can distribute cannabis in the state for adult use,” Rackliffe said.

As it stands, the state has granted five of its nine compassionate center licenses. These permit holders, located in Providence, Portsmouth, Warwick, South Kingstown and Central Falls, can start on retail sales Dec. 1.

But this expected frustration for new businesses could be a boost for compassion centers, Rackliffe noted.

“What it does is provide an opportunity for existing medical compassion centers to really operate with limited competition until the Cannabis Control Commission is formed,” Rackliffe said of the appointment process. delayed.

While retailers will have to wait, the process delayed should not impact existing medical cultivators, provided they have a hybrid license, as the RI Cannabis Act allows any previously licensed or approved medical marijuana grower to grow medical and adult use cannabis.

Jacquelyn Voghel is a staff writer at PBN. You can reach her at [email protected].

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Aurora J. William