The first medical-marijuana dispensary has opened in Rhode Island and likely will soon be followed by another, despite uncertain business prospects due to scaled-back plans following years of legal and legislative wrangling.
The Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center in Providence opened on April 19.
“Our first day was four years in the making,” said Chris Reilly, spokesman for the center. “There were a number of turns in the road. There was a great deal of interest among the patient community that we were finally able to provide a safe, acceptable place for people to get their medication.”
Rhode Island made medical marijuana legal in 2006. But since then there had been several delays, limitations and legal revisions that long frustrated owners of three approved dispensaries.
The state in 2011 selected the Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center, the Summit Medical Compassion Center in Warwick and the Greenleaf Compassion Center in Portsmouth to open.
In May 2012, however, the state shrunk the size of the centers in order to avoid attracting the attention of federal law enforcement and the owners of the then would-be centers weren’t happy, saying it would limit their ability to meet patient demand.
Rhode Island dispensaries are limited to holding no more than 99 mature marijuana plants at any time, or 150 plants total.
Those changes, the dispensary owners said at the time, would greatly shrink projected sales.
Before the allowable sizes were scaled back, for instance, the Thomas Slater center projected revenue of $3.6 million in three years and the Greenleaf Compassion Care Center, to be operated by acupuncturist Seth Bock, projected $1.2 million in revenue in three years. The Summit center originally projected $23.4 million in revenue, though that figure was flagged by the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition as a bit high.
Reilly last week said there is no way yet to tell how economically viable the Thomas C. Slater center will be.