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Rhode Island to Release New Medical Cannabis Dispensary Licenses

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Rhode Island’s Department of Business Regulation is rolling out some new medical dispensary licenses to better serve patients in the area.

After a series of delays and legal obstacles, the state of Rhode Island finally appears ready to dole out new licenses for medical marijuana dispensaries.

The state’s Department of Business Regulation announced last week that it will commence a lottery this Friday for five new dispensary licenses. 

In what local television station WPRI described as a “highly choreographed” event, the lottery will take place at the Rhode Island Department of Administration in the capital city of Providence, with limited general seating available to the general public. The lottery will also be livestreamed via Zoom.

The licenses will be awarded to dispensaries from five different geographic zones. WPRI has more details on the event: “A total of 37 applications from 23 companies will be in play for the five coveted licenses. The lottery balls have already been inspected and weighed by experts at the University of Rhode Island and sealed in a briefcase sealed with bomb squad tape since April 30, according to the state’s director of cannabis regulation, Matt Santacroce, who showed the briefcase to reporters Friday morning. A second, practice set of balls was used to demonstrate the procedure.”

The announcement comes on the heels of delays to the lottery process. The lottery was originally scheduled to be held in the first week of August, but that was postponed due to an appeal lodged by an applicant who had been rejected.

Matthew Santacroce, chief of the Office of Cannabis Regulation within the Department of Business Regulation, told the Providence Journal at the time that the lottery would not be conducted “until that appeal has run its course.” 

That still has not been resolved, however. WPRI reported that “an appeal hearing date has still not been set,” and that Santacroce “declined to comment on the ongoing appeal procedure.” The appeal is being levied by a company called Atlas Enterprises Inc., which “had applied to open a dispensary in Newport, where such businesses are banned by local ordinance,” according to WPRI.

Rhode Island legalized medical cannabis in 2006, when the state legislature passed the Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act. Lawmakers in the state overrode the veto of then-Republican Governor Don Carcieri to get the law over the line. 

Patients in Rhode Island can acquire a prescription if they have one of several qualifying conditions, via the state’s Department of Health: Cancer or the treatment of this condition; Glaucoma or the treatment of this condition; Positive status for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) or the treatment of this condition; Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) or the treatment of this condition; and Hepatitis C or the treatment of this condition.

But 25 years after that law passed, the Providence Journal noted that the state still has only three medical marijuana dispensaries.

It may not be long for adults in the Ocean State to legally acquire some weed. In June, the Rhode Island state Senate passed a bill legalizing recreational pot use. The bill was pushed by Democratic lawmakers, including state Senate Majority Leader Joshua Miller.

“It is a historic day, as it is the first time a bill to legalize and regulate cannabis has reached the floor of either legislative chamber in Rhode Island,” Miller said after the bill’s passage. “It is important that we act expeditiously to enact a regulatory framework.”

Lawmakers have continued to iron out the terms of the legislation in the months since, and last week, WPRI reported that legislative leaders “are inching closer to a agreement on legalizing recreational marijuana, but have still not settled on what sort of governing body will oversee, regulate and issue retail licenses in the potentially lucrative market for legal cannabis.”

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