Three weeks out from Rhode Island regulators selecting five new medical cannabis license recipients, the state has yet to announce plans to award a sixth, and final, license. The drawing for a sixth license was delayed after Atlas Enterprises filed an appeal after it was disqualified as an applicant before the lottery took place.  

“We are currently determining the next steps for Zone 6 and will have an update for qualified applicants as soon as possible,” said Brian Hodge, spokesperson for the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation, which oversees the state’s medical cannabis program. 

The application process required prospective license holders to secure property for their dispensary, which became increasingly expensive when the drawing for Zone 6 was suspended over legal action. Zone 6 covers eastern Rhode Island around Providence, along its border with Massachusetts. 

“Right now we’re waiting on direction from the state,” said Thomas Mirza, who hopes to open up New Leaf Compassion Center in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

Along with New Leaf, Mother Earth Wellness, and Rhode Island Care Concepts are the remaining three applicants seeking the Zone 6 license. 

New Leaf’s proposal for a 2,900 square foot medical dispensary in Pawtucket, Rhode Island was denied a variance from the local government. The company is in the process of appealing that decision.

East Providence denied a variance for Rhode Island Care Concepts, but much like New Leaf, the proposal is still in an active appeal process with the local government. 

The Pawtucket Board of Appeal approved Mother Earth Wellness’s plan for a dispensary. The proposal needed a variance because it was within 200 feet of residential zoning and within 1,000 feet of a public park. The approval included a stipulation for the company to cover the cost of a police detail outside of the dispensary. 

Mirza said that the appeal process was ongoing and that he was continually updating the state with new filings pertaining to his appeal while waiting for a decision on the Zone 6 license.

“I’m sure the other applicant has done the same,” he said. “It’s up to how the DBR wants to assess it at this point.”

The state disqualified Atlas Enterprises as a prospective license winner after the company failed to provide the state with proof of local zoning approval. This was particularly pertinent, because Newport, Rhode Island has a moratorium in place on cannabis retail. The moratorium was most recently renewed for six additional months from last summer, which would at least last into early 2022. 

That appeal was eventually dropped on Nov. 9, according to the state. Although the state has yet to announce an additional lottery, it is likely that whoever receives the license will face the same tight nine-month deadline that winners now face in zones 1-5. 

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Zack cut his journalistic teeth covering high school sports in the south before spending a decade covering local government, politics and the courts in the Boston, Massachusetts area. He's previously written...