“I am proud to appoint these three individuals to the commission to ensure Rhode Island’s cannabis industry is both fairly regulated and successful.”
By Nancy Lavin, Rhode Island Current
The long-anticipated nominations are in for the three-member panel charged with overseeing regulation of the Rhode Island’s nascent recreational marijuana industry.
Gov. Dan McKee (D) on Wednesday named his picks to the Cannabis Control Commission. McKee’s nominations come nearly a year after the state law legalizing recreational cannabis, and 10 months after the original July 4 deadline by which he was supposed to select members of the Cannabis Control Commission.
The three-member panel is charged with overseeing regulation and licensing of recreational and medical marijuana in the state. Delays to the nomination process have sparked criticism from lawmakers and industry representatives, who say the wait is depressing growth of the nascent industry, and in turn, the cash flow into state coffers.
Frustrated with the apparent lack of progress on McKee’s end, the Rhode Island House of Representatives approved legislation last week allowing the state Office of Cannabis Regulation to take over advertising responsibilities until the commission was formed.
McKee’s picks include one name floated by House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi (D), former State Rep. Richard Jacquard (D), as well as McKee’s own deputy chief of staff, Kimberly Ahern, to head the commission. The third nomination is Layi Oduyingbo.
“I am proud to appoint these three individuals to the commission to ensure Rhode Island’s cannabis industry is both fairly regulated and successful,” McKee said in a statement. “These nominees bring diverse and relevant experience and I look forward to working with them.”
Asked about the delays in nominations, Olivia DaRocha, a spokesperson for McKee’s office, said in an emailed response that the office was waiting on “comprehensive background checks to be conducted” first.
All three nominees have law degrees and experience with state government. Ahern, McKee’s deputy chief of staff, previously served as deputy counsel for former Gov. Gina Raimondo (D), and also spent nine years with the Rhode Island Office of the Attorney General as special assistant to the attorney general.
Jacquard works as a self-employed attorney, after retiring from a 22-year career with the Cranston Police Department. He also served as a state representative from 1993 to 2021.
Oduyingbo serves as managing attorney, owner and founder of a Cranston-based law firm specializing in personal injury and employment law. He previously served as corporate counsel where he handled compliance and governance matters and as an appellate attorney where he represented military veterans who were wrongfully denied disability benefits. Prior to that, Oduyingbo worked as an accountant.
All three nominees require approval by the Rhode Island Senate, a vote on which had not been scheduled as of Wednesday.
Greg Pare, a spokesperson for the Senate, says the chamber does not comment on nominations that require its approval prior to the process beginning.
Shekarchi in an emailed response Wednesday said, “Governor McKee made very good choices and I trust the Senate will fully vet all three nominees during the confirmation process.”