You are here
Home > News > Recreational Pot Sales Begin in Rhode Island

Recreational Pot Sales Begin in Rhode Island

On Thursday, Rhode Island licensed adult-use cannabis sales began. It was six months since Governor Dan McKee approved legislation that legalized recreational marijuana for those 21 years and over. The first five licensed stores that sold adult-use cannabis opened in Rhode Island on December 1. More will open within the next week.

The five retailers who launched adult-use cannabis sales on Thursday were all already licensed to sell medical marijuana to patients registered with the state’s medicinal cannabis program. The state will soon add two more so-called “hybrid” retailers to its existing medicinal cannabis operation, which will allow for recreational marijuana sales by the end of October. 

As the date for adult-use cannabis sales was nearing, last week the governor announced the imminent launch.

“This milestone is the result of a carefully executed process to ensure that our state’s entry into this emerging market was done in a safe, controlled and equitable manner,” McKee said in a November 22 statement from the governor’s office. “It is also a win for our statewide economy and our strong, locally based cannabis supply chain, which consists of nearly 70 licensed cultivators, processors and manufacturers in addition to our licensed compassion centers. Finally, I thank the leadership of the General Assembly for passing this practical implementation framework in the Rhode Island Cannabis Act and I look forward to continuing our work together on this issue.”

May: Legalization of Recreational Marijuana

Matt Santacroce was chief of Rhode Island’s Office of Cannabis Regulation as well as interim deputy director of Department of Business Regulation. He noted how quickly state regulators allowed recreational marijuana sales to begin after McKee had signed the legislation legalizing adult use cannabis.

“We were pleased with the quality and comprehensiveness of the applications we received from the state’s compassion centers, and we are proud to launch adult use sales in Rhode Island just six months after the Cannabis Act was signed into law, marking the Northeast’s fastest implementation period,” said Santacroce. “We look forward to continuing to work with the state’s cannabis business community to ensure this critical economic sector scales in compliance with the rules and regulations put forward by state regulators.

Because medical marijuana was legalized in 2006, state officials don’t expect a rise in recreational use. 

“It’s a good opportunity for Rhode Islanders to buy safe, regulated cannabis products in the convenience of their own town or area of the state,” Santacroce told the Boston Globe. “If you are used to going to Massachusetts or wherever, you can save time and gas. We will generate state and local tax revenue that didn’t exist before. We have the potential to create value in our markets, our industry and in our supply chains. That’s a big deal.”

Adults are allowed to smoke marijuana anywhere that tobacco smoking is legal, provided it does not pose a danger to children. In May’s legislation, provisions were made to extinguish any prior marijuana possession charges that are no longer legal under the current law.

The total tax on recreational weed is 20%

Recreational sales are subject to a 10% state excise and 7% state sales taxes. There is also an additional 3% local sales tax. In the first fiscal year, taxes on recreational marijuana sales will generate approximately $15 million in tax revenue. According to state officials, regulated marijuana sales are expected to bring in $7.5million in state excise revenue, $5.2million in sales tax revenue and $2.2million in local excise revenue.

Cannabis retailer Mother Earth Wellness in Pawtucket opened three hours earlier than its normal 8:00 a.m. opening time to get a jump on the first day of legal recreational marijuana sales, and the shop’s first recreational marijuana transaction was rung up at 5:18 a.m. Around 300 people visited the dispensary between mid-morning and noon, with about 80% being recreational marijuana buyers.

“We’ve had a very successful day,” Mother Earth Wellness co-owner Joe Pakuris told the Associated Press. “I think it has been a smooth transition and the state has done an excellent job of rolling out this program. Everything’s great.”