Rhode Island issues emergency measures to meet MMJ demand

Rhode Island regulators have issued emergency rules that create a new class of private medical marijuana cultivators to help meet a potential supply shortfall.

The growers will replace patient caregivers as a key MMJ supply source for the state’s three dispensaries, which aren’t producing all the different strains needed to supply Rhode Island’s more than 15,000 patients, the Providence Journal reported.

State officials worry there could be a shortage of medical cannabis because of a new law, effective Jan. 1 of next year, prohibiting dispensaries from buying excess plants from caregivers. The law was passed because some caregivers were producing more cannabis than their patients needed, and the excess supply was making its way to the black market.

The state’s three dispensaries are permitted to grow as much marijuana as they want. But dispensary owners still have sourced some of their supply from private growers.

To prevent an MMJ shortage and skyrocketing prices that might drive patients to the black market, Rhode Island officials implemented the emergency regulations to expedite the licensing of new cultivators. These growers will be more tightly regulated, according to the Providence Journal.

According to the newspaper, new private cultivators will be permitted to grow up to 500 plants and keep no more than 10 pounds of usable cannabis in stock. If cultivators grow usable cannabis that is not part of an agreement with a dispensary, they must sell or destroy that product within 30 days. Annual licensing fees can range from $20,000 to $80,000, depending on the size of the grow.