Today, Common Cause Rhode Island is calling on Governor Dan McKee to reject the names submitted by the Speaker of the House for the newly created Cannabis Control Commission (CCC). Legislation passed earlier this year requires the Speaker of the House to submit a list of three names to the governor for one of the three seats on the Commission. Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi sent a list of three names to the governor on July 21st. Common Cause Rhode Island believes the appointment scheme interferes with the Separation of Powers, specifically the Appointments Clause, in the Rhode Island Constitution.
On Thursday, Oct. 27th, WPRI-TV reported that John Conti, the Senior Deputy Chief of Staff to Speaker Shekarchi was a silent partner in a medical marijuana cultivation business with mafia associate Raymond “Scarface” Jenkins. Additionally, the reporting showed that Mr. Conti leaked confidential information from the proposed state budget about expansion of the state’s medical marijuana business to Mr. Jenkins, and others, and met with him at the State House during the work day.
“We know that those setting the rules shouldn’t be the same ones in charge of ensuring those rules are followed. The revelations in the Channel 12 reporting about John Conti reveal why the legislature should not be involved in the day-to-day regulation of Rhode Island’s newly legalized recreational marijuana market,” says John Marion, Executive Director of Common Cause Rhode Island. “Common Cause calls on Governor McKee to reject all the names on the list for nomination to the Cannabis Control Commission given to him by Speaker Shekarchi. The General Assembly should repeal the provision of the Rhode Island Cannabis Act (§ 21-8.11-4) that gives the Speaker of the House a role in naming a member to the Commission.”
Common Cause Rhode Island also believes the General Assembly needs to close the loophole that allowed Mr. Conti to walk away from his role as a silent partner in a marijuana cultivation business without any legal consequences.
Common Cause Rhode Island was a leader in the fight for Separation of Powers in Rhode Island from 1994-2004. In November 2004 the people of Rhode Island voted overwhelmingly to amend the state constitution to create a system of three separate and distinct branches of government, to prohibit legislators from sitting on state boards and commissions that exercise executive powers and to give the governor the exclusive power, with advice and consent of the Senate, to make appointments to boards and commissions that exercise executive powers.