Typically, medical marijuana patients can purchase cannabis only from dispensaries in the state in which they’re registered. In other words, patients can’t travel across state lines and expect their medical marijuana recommendation to be valid. Breaking the norm, however, is Rhode Island. Last month, lawmakers passed a small piece of legislation that opens up dispensary sales to out-of-state medical marijuana patients. So if you have a medical marijuana card from anywhere in the country, now you can make purchases at any dispensary in Rhode Island.
Rhode Island Hopes Out-of-State Cannabis Buyers Will Boost MMJ Program
Rhode Island has just three medical marijuana dispensaries. Of course, the state is only 37 miles wide and 48 miles tall, so three dispensaries can serve a lot of patients. And according to the most recent total available, Rhode Island has just over 19,000 registered medical marijuana patients.
To better serve those patients, Gov. Gina Raimondo proposed bringing the total number of dispensaries up to 15. But lawmakers didn’t see a reason to add more dispensaries to the state. House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello said 15 was too many. He worried about making a decision the state would regret down the road.
What state legislators did agree to, however, was a provision to allow out-of-state medical marijuana patients to make purchases at Rhode Island dispensaries.
According to Rhode Island’s marijuana regulators, the measure isn’t aiming to boost business for dispensaries in the state. Instead, it aims to prevent patients from illegally trafficking cannabis into the state. Or, as the state’s chief regulator Norman Birenbaum put it, to keep out-of-state patients from buying cannabis off the black market.
Out-of-State Requirements for Dispensary Purchases in Rhode Island
But business has seen a boost, according to the owners of Rhode Island’s three medical cannabis dispensaries. According to its CEO, Greenleaf Compassion Care Center served more than 50 nonresident patients since the measure went into effect on June 22.
The Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center, in Providence, saw similar numbers. While Summit Medical Compassion Center, in Warwick, reported a smaller bump of a dozen or so out-of-state customers. Most are coming from Massachusetts, where weed is legal but dispensaries sparse.
All three dispensaries, however, are taking steps to ensure that customers are lawfully registered MMJ patients in their home states. In addition to their out-of-state medical marijuana cards, patients will have to present a second form of government-issued photo ID.
But its ultimately up to the dispensaries as to how to handle verification. Regulators’ guidelines only specify dispensaries have to use “reasonable good faith efforts” to make sure customers are valid, registered patients somewhere.
Nonresident patients will also have to follow all the rules as Rhode Island patients. And that means out-of-state buyers will have to have their info added to a tracking database. Finally, Rhode Island limits purchase amounts to 2.5 ounces of botanical cannabis every 15 days.