By Benjamin L. Rackliffe

May 19, 2023

After much anticipation, Rhode Island Governor Daniel McKee made a move critical to advancing the state’s cannabis legalization efforts by naming his appointments to the new Cannabis Control Commission (“CCC”).

The announcement of Kimberly Ahern, the Governor’s current Deputy Chief of Staff, as Chairperson, along with Robert Jacquard and Layi Oduyingbo, was made on May 17, 2023, just days shy of the one-year anniversary of the Rhode Island Cannabis Act (“Act”) legalizing adult use and sales of recreational marijuana.

Under the Act, the CCC is to be established as an independent body of three members to oversee “the regulation, licensing and control of adult use and medical cannabis.”  Governor McKee originally had, by law, 40 days from the signing of the bill on May 25, 2022, to appoint members of the CCC. The months-long delay caused major frustration for existing and prospective license holders.

For one, the CCC is responsible for drafting new regulations, which will provide the framework for another round of retail licensing applications.  Without a regulatory body to do so, and then subsequently accept, review and approve applications for the 33 additional licenses that the Act permits, it could take at least another year before new retailers are up and running. This is not to say, however, that aspiring licensees should be sitting idle.  Rather, it would be prudent for licensees to begin the early stages of the planning process, including retaining counsel to advise on how best to positions oneself under the “certainties” of the application and operations that are already provided for in the Act.

What’s Next? 

The Governor’s nominations will now be sent to the Rhode Island Senate for Advice and Consent. Upon legislative confirmation, primary authority over the medical and adult use industries will transition from the Department of Business Regulation to the CCC.

The Act also calls for the formation of a 19-person advisory board consisting of politically nominated appointees and officials. The advisory board, once formed, will work with the CCC and provide recommendations regarding the various rules and regulations, including marketing and advertising and the application/licensing process.

In conclusion, the announcement of the Governor’s appointments is a major step towards the state’s embrace of cannabis legalization. However, there is still much work to be done before the industry’s full potential is realized. For questions pertaining to cannabis business and legal matters, please contact PLDO Partner Benjamin L. Rackliffe, who leads the firm’s highly experienced Cannabis Law Practice Group, at 401-824-5183 or email

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