Rhode Island taking applications for six more medical cannabis dispensaries

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Rhode Island medical cannabis regulators started accepting applications Friday for six potentially lucrative dispensary licenses, a move that will triple the number of retail outlets for the $60 million-plus market.

With only three dispensaries now licensed, the state ranks at the top of the U.S. in terms of patients per dispensary, according to the recently released Marijuana Business Factbook – despite Rhode Island having only roughly 18,000 patients.

That situation prompted regulators to announce in March they would issue additional licenses for six MMJ dispensaries.

But the new licensees, unlike the three existing vertically integrated dispensaries, will not be allowed to grow their own marijuana, according to the Providence Journal.

The six new dispensaries, called compassion centers, will have to procure their product from the 56 stand-alone cultivators in the state as of the second quarter.

That situation could change once the dispensaries are operational, however, because “the regulations include the possibility of seeking a variance to grow,” the Journal reported.

The licenses will be issued through a lottery process, with one permit issued for each of six geographic zones.

State regulators plan to take their time, however.

The application deadline isn’t until Dec. 15 because regulators want to give time for applicants to select locations and for local governments to hold public hearings, according to the Journal.

Winning licensees aren’t expected to start selling medical marijuana until late 2021.

The licensing plan spurred a power battle between Gov. Gina Raimondo and legislative leaders who objected to the state’s plan for retail-only dispensaries. Raimondo has won – for now.

And the stand-alone cultivators argued that additional vertically integrated dispensaries could drive them out of business.