Rhode Island Cannabis Growers Plead for More Retailers

The segment has already experienced one wave of layoffs.

During a Rhode Island state Senate hearing this week, some of the 60 licensed marijuana farmers begged regulators to increase the number of licensed dispensaries, since the current number of seven is far from enough to handle the amount of cannabis the farms have ready to sell.

Rhode Island launched recreational sales in December, but the only shops allowed thus far to sell adult-use marijuana are the seven pre-existing medical dispensaries – with two more in the build-out stage. Another 24 dispensaries aren’t slated to open until the end of next year “at the earliest, with 2025 being more likely,” The Providence Journal reported.

That has left the farmers tasked with supplying the recreational market without a real way to offload product they have ready to go, they told lawmakers.

“Our industry has probably already lost 150 jobs in the first wave of layoffs,” said Peter Kasabian of Loud LLC. “That’s the first round of layoffs. Who knows when the next round is coming.”

The answer, according to the farmers, is more stores for them to supply.

“It is a necessity for survival of business, for revenue and jobs,” Nick Lacroix, president of Warwick-based Mediflor Organics, told lawmakers. “The cultivators have already seen a 30%-40% layoff rate. We don’t have the outlets to sell to.”

Although Rhode Island legalized recreational marijuana over a year ago, Gov. Dan McKee didn’t nominate his three appointees to the state Cannabis Control Commission until just last month, The Journal reported.

So the farmers requested that the commission work deliberately with localities across Rhode Island to get additional dispensaries approved as quickly as possible.

Regulators, however, are still debating exactly how to determine license winners, since only 24 new retail permits were authorized by the new recreational law, The Journal reported. A lottery was used in 2021 to hand out new medical marijuana licenses, for instance, but the application and selection process is one of the question marks that has yet to be answered by the same commission nominees that the governor just announced.

Those commissioners-to-be were tentatively approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee this past week, but must still be confirmed by the full state Senate.

John Schroyer

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