|Graphic: Potspot 411|
A long-awaited decision was announced Tuesday afternoon, with the Rhode Island Department of Health selecting three applicants, the maximum allowed under state law, to operate state-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries.
Applicants selected were Summit Medical Compassion Center in Warwick; The Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center in Providence; and Greenleaf Compassion Center in Portsmouth, reports W. Zachary Malinowski of The Providence Journal.
Top officials at the Department of Health determined that nine of the 18 applicants were qualified to open dispensaries in Rhode Island, but state law limited them to selecting a maximum of three centers. Health Department spokeswoman Annemarie Beardsworth refused to name the other six approved applicants, saying that was “protected information.”
Rhode Island is one of four states, among the 15 where medical marijuana is legal, that has state-licensed medicinal cannabis dispensaries.
Tuesday’s selections were made from among 18 applicants which proposed dispensary operations of various sizes, mostly in metropolitan areas, to serve the state’s growing number of licensed medical marijuana patients. Until now, patients in Rhode Island have had to either grow the cannabis themselves or connect with a licensed individual grower or caregiver.
The Health Department was originally scheduled to select three dispensaries to license back in the summer of 2010, but rejected every one of an earlier group of applicants. The department collected the 18 new applications last fall.
|Frieda Squires/The Providence Journal|
|Dr. Seth Bock, Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center: “I really look forward to bringing medicine to people”|
Greenleaf’s CEO, Dr. Seth Bock, said he was humbled that his dispensary application was approved.
“First of all, I’m very honored,” he said. “I really look forward to bringing medicine to people.”
Dr. Bock said he hoped to begin selling marijuana to patients in late June or early July. Greenleaf is the smallest proposed dispensary of the three nonprofit corporations chosen. It estimates will serve from 300 to 350 within three years, but will have the capability to serve many more if necessary.
Summit and Slater estimated in their dispensary applications that they would be serving a much larger number of patients.
Summit projects having 1,600 patients this year; 4,500 in 2012; and 8,000 in 2013. Those estimates are based on a significant growth in Rhode Island’s medical marijuana program. With the growth will come big money: Summit anticipates bringing in $24.7 million and having 80 employees by the third year.
“I am very excited that Summit will have the opportunity to become something very special and unique to patients in the state of Rhode Island,” said Cuttino Mobley, a 10-year National Basketball Association veteran and former standout player at the University of Rhode Island.
Summit president Mark J. Bergeron, in a separate statement, said the dispensary will open in June, but marijuana won’t be sold until September. “We have a lot to do in terms of build out and permitting,” he said.
The Thomas C. Slater dispensary also predicts a steady climb in patients, projecting income to rise from $1.4 million this year to $3.9 million in 2013.
The Slater dispensary could open for business in “about four months,” according to spokesman Chris Reilly.
“We are pleased that the Department of Health has selected our proposal to operate a compassion center in Rhode Island,” Reilly said. “While gratified that our plans have been viewed favorably within the department, we are more pleased that patients will soon have a place to receive the high quality medicine they deserve.”
The centers will grow marijuana indoors and sell it for about $300 to $350 an ounce (which seems a little steep to me). Discounts will be offered to the indigent, veterans and those suffering from incurable cancer during the final months of their lives.
JoAnne Leppanen, executive director of the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition, was happy that the state finally licensed three dispensaries.
“It’s been a long time coming and we are overjoyed to finally have compassion centers,” Leppanen said. “We have hundreds of patients that need medicine.”