Forget April 20. Today is the big day for recreational marijuana in Rhode Island.
In May, the General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to make Rhode Island the 19th state to legalize recreational marijuana, and Governor Daniel J. McKee promptly signed the Rhode Island Cannabis Act into law. But today is the first day that recreational marijuana can be sold, legally, to adults in this state.
So we talked to Matt Santacroce, chief of the Rhode Island Office of Cannabis Regulation and interim deputy director of the Department of Business Regulation, to get all the information you need if you plan to go for some marijuana.
To start with, recreational cannabis will be sold at five dispensaries that have already been selling medical marijuana:
- Aura of Rhode Island in Central Falls
- Thomas C. Slater Center in Providence
- Mother Earth Wellness in Pawtucket
- Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center in Portsmouth
- RISE Warwick in Warwick
By the end of January, another two “hybrid” sites are expected to be selling both medical and recreational marijuana:
- Sweetspot in South Kingstown
- Solar Therapeutics in Warwick
Another two medical marijuana sites, in Woonsocket and Foster, are hung up in various stages of litigation, so it’s unclear when they might sell recreational cannabis.
Eventually, Rhode Island will have up to 33 recreational marijuana stores. But those other sites won’t open until a Cannabis Control Commission is created and the commission creates a process for issuing licenses. That could take awhile.
People can buy up to an ounce of marijuana “flower” or the equivalent amount in concentrate or edible form.
A full line of marijuana products will be available, including pre-rolls (joints), edibles, vape cartridges, concentrates, tinctures, and waxes.
You can expect to pay about $40 for 1/8th of an ounce of cannabis flower, about $12 for a 1-gram joint, and about $30 for a five-pack of half-gram joints.
That’s before taxes, and the total tax rate comes to 20 percent: the 7 percent state sales tax, a 10 percent state excise tax, and a 3 percent local excise tax. That’s about the same as Massachusetts, by design.
In the next full fiscal year, the state expects marijuana sales to produce $7.5 million in state excise tax revenue, $5.2 million in state sales tax revenue, and $2.2 million in local excise tax revenue.
Most places are not accepting credit cards because marijuana remains illegal on the federal level. So bring cash or a debit card.
All of the marijuana is being grown in Rhode Island because it remains illegal to transport cannabis across state lines for sale. The state has 65 licensed cultivators.
State officials will be out in the field today, trying to make sure that medical marijuana patients don’t get stuck in long lines and that dispensaries set aside enough product for those patients.
On Election Day, 31 of Rhode Island’s 39 cities and towns had ballot questions asking voters whether they should allow the sale or cultivation of recreational marijuana within their borders. Six towns voted “no” -- Barrington, East Greenwich, Jamestown, Little Compton, Scituate, and Smithfield.
The state is already beefing up its staff, aiming to bring the Office of Cannabis Regulation from seven to 19 full-time employees to help with audits, investigations, legal issues, and licensing.
The state is not expecting a huge surge in marijuana use since Rhode Islanders have had a medical cannabis program since 2006, and they’ve had easy access to recreational marijuana right across the state border in recent years.
But today is significant, Santacroce said, because “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. 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. And we have the opportunity to capture value in our market, in our industry, in our supply chain. That’s a big deal.”
This story first appeared in Rhode Map, our free newsletter about Rhode Island that also contains information about local events, data about the coronavirus in the state, and more. If you’d like to receive it via e-mail Monday through Friday, you can sign up here.