Rhode Island to Release New Medical Cannabis Dispensary Licenses

The state of Rhode Island just passed a new law that will allow medical marijuana dispensaries to open. The Ocean State is now the seventh and most recent instance in the US where adult-use cannabis legalization has been enacted, joining five others including Michigan, Vermont, Massachusetts and Maine as well as Washington D.C., all of which have already granted licenses for either dispensary or cultivation operations within their borders.


To better assist patients in the region, the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation is issuing additional medical dispensary licenses.

The state of Rhode Island looks to be poised to issue new medical marijuana dispensary licenses after a series of delays and legal hurdles.

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

The lottery will take place in the Rhode Island Department of Administration in the capital city of Providence, in what local television station WPRI characterized as a “highly choreographed” affair, with limited general seats accessible to the general public. The lottery will also be broadcast live on Zoom.

Dispensaries from five distinct geographic zones will be issued permits. WPRI has further information about the event: “For the five prized permits, a total of 37 applications from 23 organizations will be considered. According to the state’s director of cannabis regulation, Matt Santacroce, who showed the briefcase to reporters Friday morning, 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. To illustrate the method, a second set of practice balls was employed.”

The news comes after the lottery procedure was delayed. The lottery was supposed to take place in the first week of August, however it was postponed owing to an appeal filed by a previously rejected candidate.

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

However, this issue has yet to be fixed. “An appeal hearing date has yet to be determined,” according to WPRI, and Santacroce “declined to comment on the pending appeal proceedings.” According to WPRI, Atlas Enterprises Inc. filed the appeal because it “had sought to build a dispensary in Newport, where such companies are prohibited by town code.”

The Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medicinal Marijuana Act, approved by the state legislature in 2006, made medical cannabis legal in Rhode Island. To get the measure passed, state legislators overrode then-Republican Governor Don Carcieri’s veto. 

However, the Providence Journal reported that the state still only has three medicinal marijuana businesses 25 years after the legislation was approved.

Adults in the Ocean State may soon be able to legally obtain marijuana. The state Senate of Rhode Island approved a measure allowing recreational marijuana usage in June. Democratic politicians, including state Senate Majority Leader Joshua Miller, campaigned for the measure.

“Today is a historic day,” Miller said after the measure was passed. “It is the first time a bill to legalize and regulate cannabis has reached the floor of either legislative body in Rhode Island.” “It’s critical that we move quickly to implement a regulatory framework.”

In the months since, lawmakers have continued to iron out the details of the bill, with WPRI reporting last week that lawmakers “are inching closer to an agreement on legalizing recreational marijuana, but have yet to settle on what kind of governing body will oversee, regulate, and issue retail licenses in the potentially lucrative market for legal cannabis.”