Rhode Island became the 19th state to legalize adult-use marijuana last month when Gov. Dan McKee put pen to paper and signed the Rhode Island Cannabis Act into law. The new law allows for 24 new retail licenses to be issued in six geographic areas of the Ocean State. Sales are expected to start as early as December 2022.
Some highlights of the legislation include:
- Cannabis will be subject to a 20% tax rate, split up into the 7% sales tax, a new 10% cannabis tax and a 3% tax by the municipality where the marijuana is sold.
- The bill allows for home growing, with a maximum of 6 plants (and a limit of 3 mature plants) per adult over 21.
- Those 21 and older will be able to purchase and possess up to one ounce of cannabis.
- Any civil violations, misdemeanors or felony convictions for cannabis possession that is now legal under the law will be expunged from court records.
- Localities will be allowed to ban adult-use cannabis by way of voter ballots but cannot ban adult-use sales if the locality already allows medical cannabis sales.
- Current medical dispensaries will be able to be co-located as adult-use. The state will add another 24 retail licenses, bringing total store fronts to 33.
- Rhode Island aims to reserve 25% of the new retail licenses for social equity applicants, along with a portion of fees collected by the state going to a social equity fund.
The Office of Cannabis Regulation is responsible for licensing and regulatory oversight of compassion centers, cultivators and cooperative cultivations and oversight of medical marijuana plant tagging requirements. It also is responsible for licensing and regulatory oversight of industrial hemp growers and handlers and CBD consumable retailers and distributors.
As of this writing, Rhode Island issued nine licenses to sell hemp-derived consumable CBD products and five licenses to distribute hemp-derived consumable CBD products.
Rhode Island legislators legalized medical marijuana in 2006 over the veto of then Gov. Donald Carcieri, making it the 11th state to do so. The Rhode Island Department of Health Medical Marijuana Program reviews and approves patient, caregiver and authorized purchaser applications, while the Department of Business Regulation is responsible for the licensing and regulatory oversight of cultivators, cooperative cultivations, the state’s medical marijuana plant tracking system and compassion centers.
Under the new law, Rhode Island’s existing medical marijuana dispensaries will be able to transition to hybrid stores selling both medical and adult-use cannabis. Approved hybrid licensees could start to grow and manufacture cannabis for adult consumers starting Aug. 1.
To be approved for medical marijuana, a patient must be treated for the following conditions.
- Autism spectrum disorder
- Cachexia, or wasting syndrome
- Cancer or cancer treatment
- Glaucoma or glaucoma treatment
- Hepatitis C or treatment for hepatitis C
- Seizures, including but not limited to those characteristic of epilepsy
- Severe, debilitating, or chronic pain
- Severe nausea
- Severe and persistent muscle spasms, including, but not limited to those characteristics of multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s disease
- Agitation related to Alzheimer’s disease
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (for patients 18 or older)
Rhode Island has four licensed compassion centers:
- Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center
- Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center
- Summit Medical Compassion Center
- Plant Based Compassionate Care dba Sweetspot Dispensary
A compassion center license may be obtained by a not-for-profit corporation to acquire, possess, cultivate, manufacture, deliver, transfer, transport, supply, or dispense marijuana to registered qualifying patients and their registered primary caregivers.
Public companies operating in Rhode Island
The cannabis market in Rhode Island is small but expected to grow with the addition of adult-use cannabis. The following public companies have a stake in the region.
In January 4, 2019, Vireo Health, now Goodness Growth Holdings (CSE: GDNS) (OTCQX: GDNSF) completed the 100% acquisition of High Gardens, Inc., which has licenses to cultivate and distribute cannabis in the state of Rhode Island. The assets at the time consisted of the state of Rhode Island issued medical cannabis licenses according to Cannabiz.media.
In August 2021, Green Thumb Industries (CSE: GTII) (OTC: GTBIF) closed on a deal to acquire CanWell Processing and Mobley Pain Management and Wellness Center. Both companies hold stakes in Summit Medical Compassion Center, a nonprofit dispensary in Warwick, Rhode Island. “This acquisition provides immediate scale within a limited license market and sits squarely in our enter, open, scale strategy to expand access to well-being through cannabis,” said Green Thumb Founder and Chief Executive Officer Ben Kovler. Green Thumb has one of the few vertical licenses available, along with one of three current retail locations.
Ancillary company GrowGeneration (NASDAQ: GRWG), the largest chain of specialty hydroponic and organic garden centers, operates one of its 63 locations in Rhode Island. In February 2022, the company acquired the assets of Horticultural Rep Group, Inc. a specialty marketing and sales organization of horticultural products based in Ogden, Utah.
In 2021, Rhode Island’s population was about 1.1 million, so it is not expected to be a big market for cannabis. Figures for 2021 medical cannabis patient and caregiver use can be found here. According to the May 26th Industry Update by Alliance Global Partners, the market could reach $400 million at maturity.