Rhode Island is still dealing with legal setbacks to its medical cannabis lottery.
Regulators in the state have once again delayed the lottery, which was initially supposed to take place this week. Now, it has been postponed because of an administrative appeal from a rejected lottery applicant.
This is the second time the lottery has been delayed since the idea was first presented in the state. It was initially supposed to take place last spring, and now it will not be scheduled “until that appeal has run its course,” according to the Office of Cannabis Regulation in Rhode Island.
The Office of Cannabis Regulation is managed with oversight from The Department of Business Revenue. They selected 24 applications from the 28 applicants who initially applied, and one who was not selected was not happy with the results.
Enlite RI, Livity Compassion Center, The Edward O. Hawkins Center and Atlas Enterprises were the companies that did not make the cut. Atlas Enterprises filed the appeal that is holding up the lottery. Now, because of this setback, regulators in the state are still figuring out how the lottery will work.
Matthew Stacroce, chief of the Office of Cannabis Regulation, claims that it may be clearer “in a couple weeks” after meeting with lawyers for the rejected applicant and figuring out how to move forward.
Once finally selected, the businesses that emerge victorious from the lottery process will be situated in six regions around the state. Some companies even filed applications in more than one region to try and increase their odds of winning and gaining a license. The 45 applying companies were then paired down to the final 28 applications, and 24 were selected by lottery.
This was only done after months of reviewing business plans to determine who was qualified. It is not entirely clear how the process was done, and now, an appeal is being filed to determine just why Atlas Enterprises wasn’t selected.
Back in February, the Department of Business Revenue tried to partner with a third-party company to run the lottery. However, they received no bids from interested companies, so now, they’re working with the State Division of Lottery to better fine-tune the process.
According to Santacroce, the goal was “a somewhat lower-tech” system of selecting winners, rather than a sophisticated lottery machine like the ones with numbered balls that pick daily lottery numbers. He even suggested the use of ping-pong balls that are “fully weighted, sealed and certified” and then drawn out of a basket by those running the lottery.
Rhode Island and Current Cannabis Businesses
At this time, Rhode Island has three medical dispensaries across the state. The Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center is located in Providence, the Greenleaf Compassion Center is in Portsmouth, and The Summit Medical Compassion Center is in Warwick. They opened back in 2013 and 2014, and since then, have been the only legal cannabis dispensaries across Rhode Island.
Gina Raimondo, the governor at the time, pushed for more dispensaries to meet the demand for medical cannabis in the state and improve access to affordable product. She also wanted to go forth with a lottery system to avoid political favoritism or unfair selection practices.
Additionally, as the medical program still works out the kinks and growing pains of expansion, lawmakers are also considering legalizing recreational cannabis in the state. The state Senate passed a full legalization bill during the recently concluded legislative session, but the House is putting the issue off until the General Assembly meets again.
This makes the lottery system all the more important, as medical dispensaries will likely have first dibs on retail sales once they become legal.
Addison Herron-Wheeler is co-publisher and owner of OUT FRONT Magazine, and web editor of New Noise Magazine. She covers cannabis and heavy metal, and is author of Wicked Woman: Women in Metal from the 1960s to Now and Respirator, a collection of short stories.