McKee signs bills establishing Juneteenth state holiday, cannabis marketing

GOV. MCKEE ON MONDAY signed bills into law that establishes June 19 as an official state holiday beginning in 2024 and allow cannabis retailers to advertise in the state./ ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE PHOTO/STEVEN SENNE

PROVIDENCE – Rhode Island billboards advertising recreational marijuana will soon be donning images of homegrown buds, thanks to a new law that local pot shops and cultivators hope will level the commercial cannabis playing field.

Gov. Daniel J. McKee on Monday signed legislation that passed the General Assembly June 16 allowing recreational cannabis retailers to advertise their products in-state during the “transition period” until the newly appointed Cannabis Control Commission crafts new regulations.

The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Jonathan Acosta, D-Central Falls, and Rep. Scott Slater, D-Providence, and directs the R.I. Department of Business Regulation to amend current regulations to allow for in-state advertising, the lack of which became a point of contention among the state’s cannabis industry.

State lawmakers introduced the bills back in March after a months-long delay in commission appointments, which were supposed to be made by McKee no more than 40 days after the Rhode Island Cannabis Act became law.

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The commission, which was approved by unanimous consent by the Senate on June 14, will include McKee’s deputy chief of staff, Kimberly Ahern; Cranston attorney Layi Oduyingbo; and Cranston attorney and retired sergeant of the Cranston Police Department, Robert Jacquard.

There are still only nine locations that had already held medical marijuana dispensary licenses now selling marijuana for recreational use. The cannabis commission will oversee the approval of 24 new retail licenses, as spelled out in the Rhode Island Cannabis Act.

Also on Monday, McKee signed a bill establishing June 19 as “Juneteenth National Freedom Day,” which will be an official state holiday in Rhode Island beginning in 2024.

In a statement, McKee called the state holiday, which commemorates what many historians view as the “true” end of enslavement in the Unites States, “a crucial and official recognition of the horrors and injustices of slavery.”

“Making Juneteenth an official holiday in Rhode Island is an important act that acknowledges our past, highlights the progress we’ve made toward creating a more equal and just world, and underscores the work that lies ahead,” he said.

Christopher Allen is a PBN staff writer. You may contact him at Allen@PBN.com.

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