The Rhode Island statehouse in Providence. Credit: Mike Fourcher / Grown In

Rhode Island may be the 19th state in the country to legalize adult use cannabis, but there is an enormous amount of work to be done before the state can hit its December target for legal sales to begin.

The State Senate has to wait until July 4 before they can review and approve appointed members of the state’s new Cannabis Control Commission. Then, the new Commission will have until August 1 – less than a whole month – to figure out how to license adult use cultivation, with a potential start for sales in December, as per the Rhode Island Cannabis Act. 

Governor Dan McKee signed the Rhode Island Cannabis Act into law on May 25, which immediately started the 40-day clock on when McKee must submit three appointments to the Senate for the new three-person Cannabis Control Commission. One of those appointments will come from a list of three candidates that House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi must submit by June 24 – 30 days after the law goes into effect.

That leaves the governor 10 days to pick from the Speaker’s list and submit two more choices of his own.

The new law gives the state Senate power to “advise and consent” on board members, which basically means the Senate approves the governor’s two selections as well as the state House’s one selection.

“The timeline for Senate advice and consent would be up to the Senate,” said Alana O’Hare, spokesperson for Gov. McKee.

Once the commission has seated its three members, the trio will face a mountain of work, as they must write the rules that will govern the market, including establishing seed-to-sale reporting rules, and setting the rules for mandatory random sample testing for THC potency, residual solvents and other toxins.

The state’s medical cannabis program currently requires cannabis operators to use BioTrack for seed-to-sale monitoring.

On August 1, 2022, any of Rhode Island’s existing medical cannabis cultivators will be able to transition their cultivation license into a hybrid one, allowing them to wholesale to adult-use retailers.

Those existing cultivators will get the first crack at the adult use market, as there will be a two-year moratorium on the issuance of new cultivation licenses, starting when the commission finalizes the state’s adult use market regulations.

The commission can begin enforcing their rules by Dec. 1, 2022. On that date, medical patients who home grow and caregivers will no longer have to pay for tags to track their plants. 

The commission has until Oct. 15, 2022 to adopt the rules for the process by which medical dispensaries can apply for a hybrid license.

The state’s existing medical cannabis dispensaries, known also as “Compassion Centers,” will then be able to apply for a hybrid adult use license by Dec. 1, 2022, once they pay a $125,000 fee into the state’s social equity fund. 

As soon as December, medical cannabis patients will no longer have to pay for patient ID cards, nor will or other caregivers have to pay for the tracking tags that are required for home grown plants. 

Rhode Island has a residency requirement for all adult use license applicants, with a 51% ownership minimum for all companies applying.

Commission member candidates may not hold any interest in a cannabis-related business, nor may they hold or run for office or be appointed to federal, state, or municipal government positions while serving on the Commission.

The commission members will have staggered term limits. The House Speaker’s choice will have a three-year term, and one of the governor’s other two choices will have a two year term, and the other will have one. The first commissioners will be eligible for just one subsequent term, which will last six years.

Future commission members will also be entitled to a single six-year term in addition to serving out a term vacated by their respective predecessor.

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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...