How to Open a Dispensary in Rhode Island

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Medical cannabis was legalized in Rhode Island back in 2006. Governor Gina Raimondo has stated that the state hopes to legalize recreational cannabis as well. Here is everything you will need to know about opening a dispensary in the state of Rhode Island.

Legalization in Rhode Island

Rhode Island’s Medical Marijuana Act was passed by the state legislature and signed into law in 2006.

Distribution of cannabis for medical reasons via nonprofit dispensaries aka compassion centers was first authorized in 2009. The law stated that no more than three compassion centers may hold valid registration certificates at one time. Licenses for medical cannabis businesses in Rhode Island is the Department of Business Regulations (DBR).

When was cannabis made legal

When was cannabis made legal – Image powered by

In July 2016 a new law allowed PTSD and hospitalized patients to qualify for medical cannabis use. The state does hope to pass a law allowing adult use, aka recreational cannabis. If this does happen, then the current law will of course have to be updated.

What is the Cannabis Industry in Rhode Island Worth?

Medical sales in 2016 amounted to 48.8 million. This number is projected to rise to 103.2 million by 2021. Projected adult use aka recreational sales for 2021 are expected to reach around 101.9  million, that is if recreational cannabis is legalized in the state of Rhode Island.

Licensing Requirements

License requirements

Licensing Requirements: Image Source:

Under Rhode Island state law, cannabis businesses, such as dispensaries are to be referred to as compassion centers. A compassion center in the state of Rhode Island may do any of the following: cultivation, processing, transportation as well as selling cannabis to all registered patients and registered primary care providers.

As of right now, the application window for opening a cannabis dispensary is now closed. Of course, there is a possibility that this may change in the future.

Rhode Island does hope to legalize recreational cannabis sometime in the near future. If and when this does happen, the laws as they now stand will be subject to change.

Financial Requirements

As of right now, compassion centers aka cannabis dispensaries must pay a five thousand non-refundable fee when they file the application. Then, the initial license fee ranges from 20 to 80 thousand dollars. Fees vary depending on the type of license required.


When starting a cannabis business in the state of Rhode Island, you should expect it to take at least a year to get everything up and running. As of right now, there are no applications being accepted for new cannabis businesses, but this is always subject to change. As always, you should make sure that you are up to date with your local laws.

 Consulting Companies

The following companies can be of great help to you when it comes to opening up a dispensary, acquiring a license and finding employees.


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