Rhode Islanders head to dispensaries to buy recreational marijuana

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Recreational marijuana is officially for sale in Rhode Island.

Five existing pot shops in the state are now “hybrid” stores, selling both medical and recreational cannabis.

The first business that opened its doors on Thursday was Mother Earth Wellness in Pawtucket at 5 a.m. and Karen Ballou was their first customer.

“It’s very exciting, it’s been a long time coming,” she said about being the first sale in Rhode Island.

Ballou also owns Cultivating RI and says she’s been in the business for six years.

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“It’s been a long six, six and a half years for me to get to this point, for all of us to get to this point so it was important to be the first sale,” Ballou said.

Mayor Don Grebien said they are excited about having a new business.

“We’re looking at a business. I know there’s always some controversy, people believe in it, [some] don’t. It’s now, you know, the state is allowed it is an allowable use. So we’re excited to be here supporting the new business,” he said.

The second cannabis shop opened at 6 a.m. in Warwick. RISE Dispensary held a ribbon cutting and also had treats and some live music to celebrate.

“Given it’s day one, we have a line for medical, we have a line for adult use, we have a menu of products, too: We have a ton of flower, a ton of pre-rolls, a ton of edibles — all of the products that have been available for medical patients are now available for the adult use side as well,” owner Anthony Georgiadis said.

Over in Providence, 96-year-old Joe Maraia, a WWII Veteran and grandfather of the CEO, made the first purchase at the Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center. The dispensary opened its doors to the public at 8 a.m.

“I wanted to be part of it, I don’t know how much longer I got on this earth. I never thought of dying, I guess that’s why I’m still here. I look at life and say to myself is this what people want? Let them have it. They did it with liquor, let them do it with this,” Maraia said.

The Slater Center opened as Rhode Island’s first medical cannabis compassion center in 2013.

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A spokesperson at the Slater Center said they ramped up their staffing because they expect a lot more customers to be heading through their doors.

“We anticipate maybe three or four times more business or volume coming into our door. so we have the staff and team that’s ready to handle that volume. we have the products on hand that people have come to enjoy, so we’re looking forward to the increase,” Chris Reilly said.

Gov. Dan McKee signed a bill back in May legalizing recreational marijuana in Rhode Island allowing adults 21 and older to use, grow and possess cannabis. Now they can officially buy it legally.

Residents are reminded that just because you can now purchase marijuana, doesn’t mean you can start using it anywhere you want.

Recreational cannabis will also be taxed at a higher rate — Rhode Island’s 7% sales tax, a 3% local tax and a new 10% cannabis tax.

It’s also illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana. State and local police say they have been preparing for the possibility of more impaired drivers and are ready to keep the roads safe.

More dispensaries are expected to eventually open with the state law allowing there to be 33 stores statewide.

The following shops are officially selling recreational cannabis: