Argues Separation of Powers violation opens door for inside dealing
PROVIDENCE, RI- Governor Gina M. Raimondo announced today that she has filed a lawsuit seeking a declaration from the Superior Court that provisions of Article 15 of the FY20 Budget requiring legislative approval of marijuana and hemp regulations are unconstitutional. The suit alleges that the General Assembly violated the constitutional guarantee of Separation of Powers by giving itself the right to veto – and thereby control – executive regulations governing marijuana and hemp.
"Medical marijuana is a new and growing industry, and we have a responsibility to regulate it in a way that's open, transparent, and fair for businesses and consumers," said Governor Raimondo. "We can't go back to the old way of doing things, when business decisions were made through inside deals and behind-the-scenes influence. This is a clear violation of Separation of Powers, and we're asking the Court to intervene."
As noted in the filing, current law requires executive agencies to prepare a comprehensive, on-the-record rationale supporting each regulation, including public input. Agencies must also explore a range of alternatives and prove that the adopted regulation is the most cost-effective and efficient one possible. Article 15's legislative vetoes, by contrast, require no analysis, no explanation and no public input.
"Common Cause Rhode Island is pleased to see that Governor Raimondo has filed suit seeking to overturn the unconstitutional legislative veto enacted by the General Assembly," said John Marion, Executive Director of Common Cause Rhode Island. "Rhode Islanders waited more than two centuries for there to be separation of powers in our constitution and protecting that historic reform is of paramount importance. We thank Governor Raimondo for taking decisive action to defend separation of powers."
A constitutional amendment creating Separation of Powers was passed by Rhode Island voters in 2004, following a decade of failed attempts to rein in the unchecked power of the legislature. The common practice of members of the General Assembly creating and controlling boards opened the door for improprieties, and a bipartisan group of legislators and community members led by Common Cause Rhode Island sought to end it. Ultimately, the amendment passed with more than 78 percent of the vote – the highest margin for a constitutional amendment in state history.
The Department of Business Regulation anticipates proposing regulations for public comment within the next month. The regulations under consideration will propose a lottery system in which all serious, qualified businesses have an equal opportunity to enter or expand in Rhode Island's medical marijuana market.
A copy of the lawsuit filed earlier today can be found below.
Governor Raimondo will be available to address the media today, October 22, 2019, at 3:30pm in the lobby at the Cambridge Innovation Center (225 Dyer Street, Providence).