Following through on a quick legalization-to-sale turnaround, Rhode Island will commence its commercial adult-use cannabis retail program Dec. 1, Gov. Dan McKee and the state’s Office of Cannabis Regulation (OCR) announced Tuesday.

The expanded program will launch with five existing medical operators, called compassion centers in the state, that have received approval for hybrid licenses:

Aura of Rhode Island (Central Falls)Thomas C. Slater Center (Providence)Mother Earth Wellness (Pawtucket)Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center (Portsmouth)RISE Warwick (Warwick)

While Rhode Island was the 19th state to legalize adult-use cannabis in the U.S. when McKee signed the Rhode Island Cannabis Act on May 25, 2022, it will now become the 16th state to implement a retail program.

“This milestone is the result of a carefully executed process to ensure that our state’s entry into this emerging market was done in a safe, controlled and equitable manner,” McKee said in the Nov. 22 announcement. “It is also a win for our statewide economy and our strong, locally based cannabis supply chain, which consists of nearly 70 licensed cultivators, processors and manufacturers in addition to our licensed compassion centers. Finally, I thank the leadership of the General Assembly for passing this practical implementation framework in the Rhode Island Cannabis Act, and I look forward to continuing our work together on this issue.”

While the approved legislation included a provision for municipal authority, allowing local government officials to opt-in or put a referendum before their voters, the state’s medical cannabis dispensaries, as well as existing cultivators, manufacturers and testing facilities, were grandfathered in and will now be the first to serve the state’s expanded market.

In addition to the five dispensaries, there are 48 licensed cultivators approved for hybrid licenses to grow cannabis for both the adult-use and medical marketplaces as of Nov. 22, according to the state’s Department of Business Regulation, which the OCR operates under.

“We were pleased with the quality and comprehensiveness of the applications we received from the state’s compassion centers, and we are proud to launch adult-use sales in Rhode Island just six months after the cannabis act was signed into law, marking the Northeast’s fastest implementation period,” said Matt Santacroce, interim deputy director of the department.

He added, “We look forward to continuing to work with the state’s cannabis business community to ensure this critical economic sector scales in compliance with the rules and regulations put forward by state regulators.”

In addition to the approved adult-use retail licenses in Providence, Warwick, and Pawtucket—three of the state’s most populated cities—Cranston, which has roughly 82,500 people, has six approved hybrid cultivators and could soon welcome retail operations after local officials did not put a ballot question before their voters earlier this month (opting in to the adult-use marketplace by default).

In addition to existing medical operators, another 24 adult-use retail licenses will be distributed equally among six geographic zones in the state, per the Rhode Island Cannabis Act. One retail license in each zone will be reserved for a social equity applicant and another in each zone for a workers’ cooperative applicant.

The legislation also legalized the purchasing of up to 1 ounce of cannabis at a time by adults 21 and older—with no more than 10 ounces for personal use kept in a primary residence—and the home cultivation of up to six plants (three mature).

In addition, individuals with a prior civil violation, misdemeanor or felony conviction for possession of cannabis decriminalized by the legislation will receive expungement free of charge and without a hearing by July 1, 2024. Any person who wishes to receive expungement of his or her records earlier can petition the court to do so under the law.


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