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Rhode Island to Release New Medical Cannabis Dispensary Licenses |

After many delays and legal challenges, Rhode Island appears to be ready for new licensing of 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. Zoom will livestream the lottery.

Five dispensaries in five geographic areas will receive licenses. 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.”

This announcement follows delays in the lottery process. The original schedule for the lottery was to take place in August’s first week. However, an appeal filed by a rejected applicant delayed that date.

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.” 

However, this is still not resolved. 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 became the first state to legalize medical cannabis when it passed the Edward O. Hawkins-Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act in 2006. To get the law through, the state’s lawmakers overcame Don Carcieri’s previous veto. 

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.

However, 25 years later than that law was passed, Providence JournalNotably, the state has three marijuana dispensaries.

The legalization of marijuana may be available soon for Ocean State residents. A bill allowing recreational use of pot was passed by the Rhode Island State Senate in June. It was sponsored by Democratic lawmakers including Joshua Miller (State Senate Majority Leader).

“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.”

In the weeks since then, lawmakers have been working to finalize the details of legislation. 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.”