How Are Legal Sales Going in Rhode Island?

Stephen Andrews
04 May 2023

Rhode Island is the smallest US state that went legal. Its market is "micro" compared to larger and more populous states such as California. A few months into its era of full legality, the cannabis sales numbers for Rhode Island are coming in, and they seem to be going up month-over-month.

Rhode Island launched its legal market on Dec. 1, 2022, just a few months after introducing a law to legalize the cultivation and sales of cannabis. The first week of legal sales was a complete success; Rhode Islanders collected a total of $1.6 million in revenue for the opening week. 

Legal sales in Rhode Island started with five dispensaries allowed to sell recreational cannabis products, with the law allowing a maximum of 33 operating retail locations. 

According to data from the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation, the period between Feb. 23 and March 23 was the most successful in terms of cannabis sales so far. During this period, cannabis sales generated $8.7 million for the nation's tiniest state. The figure represents a 17.4% climb month-over-month. 

Recreational cannabis products accounted for almost 62% of sales, equivalent to $5.4 million. Medical marijuana grossed $3.4 million over the same period. As a comparison, monthly sales figures typically exceed $100,000 million and some months even much more in established markets such as Colorado and California

A total of 13,691 MMJ patients were registered with Rhode Island's state system through March 23, which represents a drop of 9% since December, or 1,371 patients less in the system. This is an expected pattern, seen in almost every other new legal recreational market; a lot of medical users appear to switch and make recreational transactions for the same medicinal product. 

The average sales receipt in Rhode Island for both recreational and medicinal cannabis transactions was $30.17, down from $32.19 in December. The most popular product is flower, followed by pre-rolls and edibles. 

According to some estimates, recreational retail in Little Rhody is expected to clock up around $50 million by the end of 2023. Together with medical marijuana sales, it could generate close to $100 million and possibly surpass that number.

Rhode Island's law imposes a 10% state cannabis excise tax, plus 7% state sales tax and 3% local tax for the city or town where the transaction occurs. In terms of tax revenue, legal cannabis sales are expected to bring around $15 million to state coffers in the first full fiscal year of sales. 

The law prohibits the use of cannabis in public places where smoking or vaping tobacco is also banned and anywhere where smoke can come in the way of children. 

Recently, a group of Rhode Island legislators have sponsored a bill that aims to fine gatherings with three or more people where cannabis or other hallucinogenics are found. 

Another proposal seeks to allow Rhode Island cannabis companies to use advertising space. This proposal comes after growers felt sales were hurt by not being permitted to advertise. 

In 2022, Rhode Island was one of only three states that received higher scores (B) for implementing the state's medical cannabis program. The other two states are Connecticut and Maryland. Most other states earned C, D, and F scores. The grading was released as part of the Americans for Safe Access 2022 State of the States report.

The report praised Rhode Islanders' efforts in increasing the number of medical dispensaries over the last year. However, it also noted that authorities should open more locations to serve all medical cannabis patients in the state.

Stephen Andrews