Policy Recommendations Rhode Island

2019-2020 Improvements and Recommendations for Rhode Island

In 2019, RI issued guidance and began accepting applications from licensed medical cannabis dispensaries to begin delivery services, of which 17,994 are currently enrolled in the state's program. The state also authorized a lottery system for awarding licenses to new medical cannabis dispensaries, a strategy that runs the risk of licensing operators who may not be capable of running a functional operation. In 2020, the state expanded its number of licensed retailers, adding six new licenses to improve patient access. The state also introduced proposals for state-run cannabis retail facilities in 2020, an effort proposed by a few other states in previous years that were unsuccessful due to the conflict of federal and state cannabis laws.

Rhode Island was thorough in the state's expansion of cannabis provisions responding to COVID-19. The state's emergency plans maintained operations of medical cannabis businesses, authorized curbside pickup and delivery, and is permitting current and prospective patients to utilize telehealth for physician evaluations related to enrollment.

For 2021, ASA encourages lawmakers to focus on many of the reforms outlined in H 7621, program improvement legislation introduced in 2020. Specifically legislators should work to pass provisions of the measure addressing the high cost of cannabis products, discrimination against patients who are state employees, and state discrimination against persons seeking employment in the cannabis industry with prior drug convictions. Lawmakers are also encouraged to approve legislation extending patient protections to parents and veterans, and improve laboratory testing and labeling standards. ASA recommends that Rhode Island permanently maintain the enhancements added to the state's medical program under COVID.