PROVIDENCE, (WPRI) — Rhode Island became the 19th state in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana Wednesday, opening doors for the dispensaries already operating in the Ocean State to sell cannabis for everyday use.
Under the new law, the first retail licenses will be offered to existing medical dispensaries.
Slater Center in Providence was the first dispensary to open in Rhode Island more than a decade ago. Chris Reilly, a spokesperson for the dispensary, said they’re excited to expand their customer base.
“We know it’s been a long time coming,” Reilly said.
Per state law, medical marijuana dispensaries won’t be allowed to start selling cannabis for recreational use until December.
The Slater Center is one of three compassion centers in Rhode Island that are licensed to sell medical marijuana. Come December, the dispensary will transition to a “hybrid license,” which will let them to sell cannabis to all adults ages 21 and older.
“We think it will be a pretty seamless transition,” Reilly said. “We’ve done this for a long time. We know how to take a product that is still federally illegal and sell it in a highly regulated way.”
Reilly said the dispensary is more than ready to sell cannabis recreationally, especially after six years of watching potential customers drive over the state line to buy it in Massachusetts.
“There have been a number of Rhode Islanders that have gone to stores in Massachusetts to purchase products, so we certainly see that as a competitive threat,” Reilly said.
Beyond medical marijuana, Reilly said the compassion center also manufactures and cultivates products on site.
Reilly believes their dispensary will be able to take on the additional demand as is, adding that not much will change when it comes to parking, security and product packaging.
He explained the only thing that will change is how they vet customers at the door.
“For patients on the medical side, they will have to show verification that they’re approved to come here,” he explained. “On the adult-use side, you will have to show you are 21 or older. That will be a big difference.”
Once retail sales start, customers will pay the 7% sales tax on cannabis sales, plus a new 10% cannabis tax and a 3% local tax to the town or city where the store is located.