Rhode Island legalized medical cannabis back in 2006, and it became one of the first states with a cannabis dispensary system when it introduced the system in 2009. As of 2020, there are 3 cannabis dispensaries in the state; Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center in Providence, Summit Medical Compassion Center in Warwick, and Greanleaf Compassion Center in Portsmouth. But Rhode Island’s medical marijuana program differed greatly from programs in other states.

For years, the state had not licensed any laboratories to test for marijuana potency. Either the growers in Rhode Island tested their own products, dispensaries tested the marijuana themselves or they contracted unlicensed, private labs. Finally, the Rhode Island Department of Health (“RIDOH”) has licensed a lab to test the marijuana produced by licensed growers and distributed at dispensaries for medical use in the state. Green Peaks Analytical, which has been testing cannabis products, water, and soil for environmental compliance since 1976, was awarded the license.

Patients will now have access to unbiased, third-party data on the potency of their medical marijuana. “Like all other patients in Rhode Island, people who use medical marijuana deserve to have access to safe medication, and they deserve to have accurate information about that medication. The increased oversight that RIDOH and DBR will be providing will help ensure that critical product safeguards are in place for medical marijuana patients,” says director of Rhode Island’s health department Nicole Alexander-Scott.

Over the course of six weeks, the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulations’ (“DBR”) Office of Cannabis Regulation will gather feedback from Green Peaks Analytical, licensed growers, compassion centers. The information the office gathers will be used by the DBR to establish a deadline after which all medical marijuana products in the state will be required to have labeling that displays potency totals verified by a licensed laboratory. The two departments will also work with licensed laboratories using a phased approach to create a certification that includes testing for contaminants, such as metals, pesticides, or solvents.

The state’s medical cannabis regulators have also started accepting applications for up to six additional cannabis dispensaries. However, unlike the three existing dispensaries which are vertically integrated and grow their own crop, the six new dispensaries will be required to buy their marijuana from the six currently licensed cultivators in the state. The licenses will be issued through a lottery process with one license for each of the six geographical zones. Applicants have until December 15 to submit their applications.

Sectors players like Pure Extracts Corp. may be surprised to learn that for all this long, Rhode Island didn’t have a licensed lab to test the cannabis products being purchased by patients in the state.

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