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Our dispensary application guide covers how to open a dispensary in Rhode Island. Currently, the state has 3 active stores, better known as compassion centers. Recently, state regulators released regulations and application guidelines for new shops. The state is set to issue 6 new retail licenses. Here's how you can obtain one.

Industry Snapshot: Rhode Island

Rhode Island allows the medicinal use of cannabis. While the state only has 3 stores, it’s 2019 sales topped $50 million. That’s nearly 50% year-over-year growth. The industry also supported 1,098 full-time jobs during the same year.

Currently, it has about 55 state-licensed growers. Active growers and stores are intent on winning a license during this application round. The state’s current stores are:

  • The Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center in Providence
  • The Greenleaf Compassion Center in Portsmouth
  • The Summit Medical Compassion Center in Warwick

In March, the Department of Business Regulation (DBR) released guidelines for how stores must operate. They had plenty of time to find a location and gain local government approval. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Application Period: From July 17, 2020 through December 15, 2020

Applicants will be chosen through a lottery, most likely at the beginning of 2021.

Compassion Center Guidelines

Regulations allow for a new store to be opened in each of the 6 regions, or zones, around the state. 3 of these regions already have a shop. A region can end up with 2 stores. Below, are the state’s 6 listed zones:

  • 1: Burrillville, Cumberland, Glocester, North Smithfield, Smithfield, and Woonsocket
  • 2: Central Falls, Johnston, Lincoln, North Providence, and Providence
  • 3: Coventry, Foster, Scituate, West Greenwich, and West Warwick
  • 4: Cranston, East Greenwich, North Kingstown, and Warwick.
  • 5: Charlestown, Exeter, Hopkinton, Narragansett, Richmond, South Kingstown, and Westerly
  • 6: Barrington, Bristol, East Providence, Jamestown, Little Compton, Middletown, Newport, New Shoreham, Pawtucket, Portsmouth, Tiverton, and Warren

New stores won’t be able to grow their own weed. Regulations allow shops to submit a variance request to grow after they have opened.

Licensees aren’t allowed to enter into a business relationship with a medical practitioner who prescribes medical pot.

Application Packet

Applicants should answer every application question. All changes in information included in the application must be notified to the DBR. Here are a few general instructions for completing the application correctly:

  • All entries on the forms should be single-spaced. They must be typed in 12-point Calibri or Times New Roman font.
  • If a question does not apply, write “N/A.” If the correct answer to a particular question is “None” write “None.”
  • Applicant must submit a hard copy and an electronic copy of three different versions of the application
  • Unredacted application
  • Includes certain redactions for purposes of public records disclosures
  • Application for initial review
  • All application materials that require a signature must be signed by an “authorized signatory” of an applicant

Application Delivery Location

Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation

Attn: Office of Cannabis Regulation

1511 Pontiac Avenue, Building 68-1

Cranston, RI 02920


For more information, check out the Application for Medical Marijuana Compassion Center License at the Department of Business Regulation’s website.

Do you have additional questions about the application process and licensing? Send an email to [email protected] with the subject line “Medical Marijuana Compassion Center Application Questions.”

Do you want to stay up-to-date on the latest developments in the application process? Email [email protected] with the subject line “New Compassion Center Application Interested Parties List.”

Steps to Qualify for a License

If you want to apply, you’ll have to pay a $10,000 non-refundable application fee. You’ll also need to submit a detailed financial rundown. This includes the total amount of operating capital you have. You must also include investor information and any debt you owe.

You must include the location of your facility. Include evidence that you have received local zoning approval. Your store must not be located within 1,000 feet of public or private school. You must also include a detailed draft diagram of the proposed facility.

Applications must include a detailed business plan. This includes a detailed timeline for initiating operations. Other requirements include:

  • Number of employees
  • Description of products and services
  • Financial oversight and compliance plan
  • 3-year projected income statement
  • Marketing, promotional, and sales plan including a pricing strategy
  • Segment and customer profile

The DBR may perform an initial inspection of the proposed location. This is to ensure the application information is accurate. Once they have reviewed the application, they will invite all qualified applicants to participate in the public lottery drawing.

You can apply for a license in multiple zones. You will be allowed to operate a store in only one zone. If you are chosen for more than one zone, you will have to choose which zone you want most. The DBR will hold another lottery for the other spot(s).

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License winners must pay an annual $500,000 licensing fee. This fee is one of the most expensive in the country.

If you are selected, you may have to undergo a final pre-license inspection before being issued a license. You must meet all licensing conditions and requirements. You will have 9 months from the date of approval to complete the license prerequisites.

Once the license is issued, you will have 3 months to start the process of launching compassion center activities. If you miss any deadlines, the DBR may rescind the selection and revoke the license.

Rhode Island Cannabis College

Interested in starting a cannabis business in Rhode Island? Enroll in CTU’s online cannabis education program. We cover the fundamental aspects of starting a weed business in every state. Learn everything about starting a cannabis business, from obtaining financing to finding a location. For more information about the program.

Enroll Now