PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Cannabis cultivators are frustrated with the state’s slow rollout of recreational marijuana sales, arguing that there isn’t enough demand for their products due to the lack of retailers.
There are currently more than 60 marijuana cultivators in Rhode Island, and only a handful of dispensaries.
Cultivating RI owner Karen Ballou tells 12 News that, unless the state allows more dispensaries to open soon, cultivators will lose their livelihoods.
“It’s happening so slow that people just can’t sustain it,” Ballou said. “Sales have been really off and we were forced to lay off a lot of our staff. We’re forced to slow down production.”
“There are probably not going to be a lot of companies that make it because of this and that shouldn’t be the case,” she continued. “We should all be able to succeed once these stores are rolled out.”
Rhode Island became the 19th state to legalize recreational marijuana last year, when Gov. Dan McKee signed a bill into law that, in part, set up a framework for retail sales and taxation.
That framework included establishing a Cannabis Control Commission to oversee and regulate the industry. McKee officially named his picks for the three-member commission last month, nearly a year after legalizing the plant.
The state allowed five medical marijuana dispensaries to begin selling recreationally back in December, of which four cultivate their own cannabis. Since then, only a few additional dispensaries have opened up.
“This needs to be expedited as fast as possible,” Ballou added. “Otherwise, we’re all in jeopardy of losing our businesses.”
The law allows for 33 total dispensaries statewide, with the commission eventually approving new licenses. But McKee’s picks for the commission are still awaiting approval by the full Senate, bringing the start of that process to a standstill.
Loud owner Peter Kasabian tells 12 News cultivators across the state have had to lay off a number of their employees. The businesses are trying to avoid a second round of layoffs, but Kasabian said that will only happen if the state acts quickly.
“We’ve made a lot of investment based on the law that was put into place,” Kasabian said. “As of right now, we haven’t seen the opportunity we’ve invested in.”
“If they utilize all of the work that has been done already … we can cut that timeframe in half,” New Leaf owner Tom Mirza said. “We are not saying the decision-making on applications, or even the guidelines, should be done by the OCR. But they can do all the legwork so when the commission is in place, they aren’t starting from scratch.”
The law also calls for the formation of an 11-member advisory board, but spokespersons for the House and Senate tell 12 News the commission can get right to work while that is still being established.
The Senate is expected to approve McKee’s commission picks next Tuesday.