Rhode Island Governor Celebrates One Full Year Of Legal Marijuana Sales To Adults

Friday marked one full year since legal recreational marijuana sales kicked off in Rhode Island, and officials say they’re proud of how the market is shaping up.

“A year into adult-use cannabis sales in Rhode Island, we are proud of the careful execution that defined our entry into this industry,” said Gov. Dan McKee (D). “This success represents growing opportunity for our state’s economy but also for the nearly 70 licensed cultivators, processors, and manufacturers in the State of Rhode Island which we know are integral to our local cannabis supply chain.”

In the past year, officials said, Rhode Island has notched numerous accomplishments, including the formation of the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) to regulate the new industry. Commissioners were nominated by McKee in May and confirmed by lawmakers in June. The commission has also hired a chief legal counsel and plans more hiring in coming months.

Additionally, the state’s Cannabis Advisory Board was established, and it began having meetings last month. That body consists of experts who provide various policy recommendations on the system.

“Significant progress has been made this past year” said Commission Chair Kim Ahern. “I commend the collaborative efforts that have brought us to this moment and look forward to continuing our work in shaping the future of cannabis regulation in Rhode Island.”

Sales of marijuana products in the state, “have steadily increased nearly every month since being legalized in December 2022,” CCC said in a release about the anniversary of legal sales.

“This is due in part to the State’s efforts to create a safe and regulated market that is accessible to adult consumers over the age of 21,” the release says.

A representative for CCC told Marijuana Moment that November’s sales numbers, which will represent a full year of data since the adult-use market’s launch, should be released in the first half of this month.

State officials recently issued updated sales numbers stretching back to December 2022 in response to discrepancies noticed by Marijuana Moment. In some cases the differences were small—September’s discrepancy was just $0.04, but errors in other months ranged from nearly $70,000 above the expected total to more than $124,000 below.

As in many states, sales of medical marijuana have fallen significantly since adult-use sales began.

In terms of when more new stores will open beyond the existing medical cannabis dispensaries that have now converted to hybrid businesess, commission chair Kimberly Ahern said the commission is hoping to open license applications next year.

“Our overall goal is still to have applications open in 2024 but that is dependent on multiple factors that will make this an iterative process,” she said in a statement, according to the Boston Globe. “We understand the sense of urgency for some, but it is our goal that this be a thoughtful process.”

The state’s legalization law envisioned 33 total stores, or 24 additional retailers on top of the state’s nine medical marijuana dispensaries. Some of those will be reserved for social equity operators and others will go to worker-owned co-ops.

Ahern said at last month’s CCC meeting that social equity is one area the commission would like to focus more on, requesting data from state and federal agencies on who would qualify for one of the 12 social equity licenses envisioned by the state’s legalization law.

“The whole idea is to frame where these individuals might be,” Ahern said. “But before we can get there, we need all the data in front of us.”

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