How to open a Dispensary in Rhode Island

Nonprofit compassion centers were first authorized to distribute medical cannabis in Rhode Island back in 2006. Governor Gina Raimondo has stated that Rhode Island may soon be expanding its marijuana program into legalizing recreational use as well. Currently, three compassion centers are operating in the state, monitored by the Department of Business Regulations.

Let’s take a look at what’s involved in starting a marijuana dispensary in Rhode Island.

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    The first steps toward medical cannabis legalization were made back in January 2006, when Edward O. Hawkins’ and Thomas C. Slater’s Medical Marijuana Act was passed by the state legislature and signed into law and went into effect immediately.

    Distribution of medical cannabis through nonprofit compassion centers was authorized by law in 2009. It is stated that no more than three compassion centers may hold valid registration certificates at one time. The regulatory agency for the distribution of licenses is the Department of Business Regulations (DBR).

    When was cannabis made legal
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    A July 2016 law added PTSD and hospitalized patients. Adult-use legalization did not make the November 2016 ballot, although there is speculation that lawmakers may pass a bill in 2017. Comments from Governor Raimondo indicate that they are expanding the medical regulatory framework, in preparation for the possibility of adult-use legalization in the state.

    Profits of the cannabis industry in Rhode Island

    Medical sales for 2016 amounted to $48,800,000, while this number is projected to rise to $103,200,000 by 2021. Projected adult use sales for 2021 are expected to reach around $101,900,000 – depending on if and when recreational use of marijuana is legalized.

    License requirements

    License requirements
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    Retail marijuana businesses are legally defined as compassion centers in Rhode Island.
    A registered Rhode Island compassion center may cultivate, process, transport and sell cannabis to registered patients and their registered primary caregivers.

    The application period for new licenses is currently closed. There are potential future opportunities, making it still worth knowing how one might open a business in the state of Rhode Island. For example, HB 5777, an act to tax and regulate marijuana, was introduced in March of 2015 and is currently in legislation.

    Of course, hopes are high that recreational marijuana will be legalized in Rhode Island fairly soon. If that happens, new laws and regulations would need to be put in place, meaning it is imperative to stay up-to-date if you are interested in starting a marijuana business in this state.

    Financial requirements

    Currently, compassion centers must pay a $5,000 non-refundable fee at the time of application. Then, the initial license fee ranges from $20,000 to $80,000 depending on the class of license issued.


    To start a marijuana business in Rhode Island, you will need to stay up to date with the current laws. That way, you will know when more licenses are available and can apply for them as soon as they are. Once licenses are once again available, allow at least a year to get your cannabusiness running.

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    Looking to start a marijuana dispensary in Rhode Island? These marijuana consulting firms can help you stay up-to-date with the latest on state licensing requirements and application periods.

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